Over the past several days, a single number has bounced around meetings, film sessions and practices for the Maryland men’s basketball team, indicative of the challenge presented Monday night: 80.
North Carolina State forward T.J. Warren, the Terrapins learned, takes 80 percent of his field-goal attempts with at least one foot inside the paint. At the rim, the sophomore makes nearly three-quarters of his shots, according to Hoop-Math.com. Maryland has been burned by volume scorers before this season, and Warren represents the latest installment.
“He’s tough,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s got good size, he’s playing the three, he’s got post-up game. He makes really tough shots, puts foul pressure on you. He’s going to get his, probably. Our whole thing with Warren, if he gets 20 points or his average, then he does it on 19-20 shots. If he gets 22 on eight shots, that’s not going to be good for us, or he gets 30 on 10 shots. Got to make him earn it. But he’s a good player. He’s a really good player. He’s got to earn it.”
No power-conference player takes a greater percentage of his team’s shots than Warren, and virtually every touch he receives seemingly results in the basketball spinning from his hands towards the hoop. His 22.2 points per game leads the ACC, and only Virginia (four points on 1 of 7 shooting) has kept him under 13 points in a game this season.
Warren is an old prep school foe and hometown friend of Dez Wells, and the junior most likely will begin the game guarding him. Whenever Turgeon dips into the bench and summons Nick Faust, the guard now billing himself as Maryland’s “lockdown defender” will switch onto Warren.
“He’s going to be a tough player,” Faust said. “He’s good with a foot in the paint. That’s usually a bucket. You have to try to push him off and alter his shot. They have a lot of plays for him that set him up with cuts around the basket. He usually catches it around the foul line, takes one or two dribbles and is at the rim. You just have to try to alter his shots, push him off and fight through their screens.”
N.C. State enters on a three-game losing streak, most recently the victims of a 35-point embarrassment at Duke, and has lost five of seven since Dec. 28. During that stretch, Warren is still averaging 19.6 points per game, but he hasn’t notched more than 1.09 points per possession in any game according to Kenpom.com, a number regularly eclipsed during North Carolina State’s non-conference schedule.
“They have a lot of other good players, but transition you have to be aware of him, second-chance points you have to box him out,” Turgeon said. “Our whole team has to be aware of him in the half-court.”