RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State's defense received credit for setting the tone and forward T.J. Warren kept scoring at a healthy pace.
That was enough to put Northwestern in an ill mood Wednesday night.
Warren scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half as the Wolfpack defeated Northwestern 69-48 at PNC Arena, ruining the return to the region for first-year Wildcats coach Chris Collins.
"It was a good all-around effort on the defensive end," Warren said. "We wanted to get out in transition and it started at the defensive end."
Northwestern's 25 percent shooting (13-for-52) contributed to N.C. State's defensive showing.
"You've got to understand, there's going to be growing pains like tonight," Collins said. "It's about how we respond. Our margin for error is very slim, especially on the road."
The game was part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. N.C. State had lost its five previous games as part of the series between the conferences.
Guard Ralston Turner scored 13 points and center Jordan Vandenberg added 12 points for N.C. State (5-2), which won its third game in a row.
Swingman Drew Crawford led Northwestern (4-5) with 17 points and nine rebounds. Guard Tre Demps had 12 points for the Wildcats, who were held to a season-low point total after scoring at least 58 points in every other game.
"I really liked our defense," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "I thought our guys did a nice job of taking those (3-point shots) away."
The Wildcats were 6-of-22 from long range.
Collins, a former Duke player and assistant coach, received a technical foul early in the second half from the ACC officiating crew. That ended up as a four-point possession for N.C. State, which built its lead to 39-22.
Collins was greeted by a round of boos during introductions, but even that was rather tame by some standards. If anything, he said, he figured his former boss, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, would be alarmed by the amount of zone defense the Wildcats used.
"I have been disowned by Coach K for playing so much zone," he said, knowing the Duke program has been entrenched as a man-to-man defensive operation. "Look, we have to play some zone."
Also looking different to Collins was Warren, a sophomore who has trimmed down and added variety to his offensive offerings. He was coming off two 30-point outings.
"You noticed physically that he has gotten a lot thinner," Collins said. "He's very unique because he's always moving. He knows he's the leader now. He knows he's the guy."
The Wildcats, who have lost three games in a row, couldn't overcome 24 percent first-half shooting from the field. Northwestern ended up with six 3-point baskets and seven 2-point buckets.
The Wolfpack are unbeaten in the three games since Gottfried revamped the starting lineup as a means, in part, to reduce foul trouble that had plagued the team.
"We've got some confidence with it," said forward Lennard Freeman, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. "We're getting used to each other."
N.C. State got in position for numerous shots in the lane, holding a 38-10 scoring advantage in that area.
"(That) is not a good recipe," Collins said.
The Wolfpack led by as many as 12 points in the first half settled for a 31-20 halftime lead. It was Northwestern's lowest-scoring half of the season.
Warren scored 16 of the Wolfpack's first 22 points.
N.C. State was turnover-free for the first 16 minutes. The Wolfpack had only five giveaways in the game.
Crawford, who missed Friday's loss to UCLA in Las Vegas because of back spasms, was back in the starting lineup. He scored the Wildcats' first six points on two 3-pointers.
The Wildcats scored only on three 3-pointers for nearly the first 13 minutes. Their first 2-point field goal came on Crawford's drive and short jumper with 7:05 left in the half.
NOTES: The schools met for the third time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. All three were played in Raleigh, with the teams splitting the first two matchups. ... Northwestern coach Chris Collins went 7-2 as a Duke player in games against North Carolina State. ... The consecutive 30-point outings for North Carolina State F T.J. Warren entering the game marked the first back-to-back games of 30 or more points for a Wolfpack player since Rodney Monroe accomplished the feat in February 1991. ...Northwestern plays its next five games at home, beginning Saturday against Western Michigan. ... North Carolina State continues its stretch of seven consecutive home games with a Saturday matchup against Long Beach State.