RALEIGH — The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team survived an overtime challenge from N.C. State and T.J. Warren 85-84 to improve to 21-7 on the season and 11-4 in conference play, recording a tenth straight victory Wednesday night at PNC Arena.
With the loss, the Wolfpack fell to 17-11 overall and 7-8 in conference action.
“It was an unbelievable basketball game. I felt like we had the game won and made one of the silliest fouls I’ve ever seen in my life. All of a sudden they have a six-point lead and everybody’s thinking we’ve given it away. All of a sudden, Marcus made a heck of a drive, and we stole one,” UNC Head Coach Roy Williams says.
N.C. State dropped the back-and-forth affair despite Warren’s 36 points, a career high. Battling foul trouble, the Wolfpack star put in a legendary performance that turned into a duel with Carolina’s Marcus Paige in the second half.
The pair went shot-for-shot down the stretch, but it was Paige who got the final opportunity, laying in the basket off the glass with .9 seconds left in the overtime period to grab the win for the Tar Heels.
Remarkably, Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half, helping Carolina win its third straight game when trailing at the half.
The second half was a clean performance for UNC as the Tar Heels only committed a single turnover after halftime.
Other important contributors for the Tar Heels included J.P. Tokoto’s 16 points and Brice Johnson’s 10.
Carolina overcame another rough free throw shooting night, only mustering a 58.1 percent night, knocking down 18-31 while NC State shot at a 61.3 percent clip from the line.
All in all, it was a legendary duel between two of the conference’s most dynamic players, but it was the Tar Heels and Paige who squeaked it out to the disappointment of the rowdy crowd in PNC Arena.
The Tar Heels won the opening tipoff and took the ball right to the rim, drawing an early foul on T.J. Warren just ten seconds into the game. J.P. Tokoto made both free throws.
The Wolfpack were missing early, allowing the Tar Heels to take the 4-0 lead when Kennedy Meeks scored inside with 18 minutes to play in the half.
N.C. State got on the scoreboard thanks to Warren’s make. And he tied the game up soon after with a pair of foul shot conversions. It was 4-4 with 16:41 on the first half clock.
Meeks got to the foul line with a rebound and some nice work inside. But the freshman only made one of two to give UNC the 5-4 edge.
Ralston Turner earned NC State’s first lead of the game with a sharp jumper that fell through the nets on the ensuing possession. With 15:19 left in the half, NC State held the 6-5 advantage.
Tyler Lewis popped a three-pointer to stake the Wolfpack out to the 9-5 lead. Carolina was shooting 1-9 in the half until Brice Johnson broke through with a score that closed the gap down to two points. Another Johnson put away tied the game up at nine points wit 13:03 on the clock.
Warren responded on the other end with a make off the glass that erupted the crowd. It was Paige who got on the board next with a smooth score in transition. With 10:55 to play in the half, the Wolfpack found themselves tied up 13-13 with the visiting Tar Heels.
Desmond Lee banked in a long-range shot that broke the tie in favor of N.C. State, but the Wolfpack committed their fourth team foul that sent Johnson to the line after that. But he missed both attempts.
Turner knocked down a crazy long three-pointer that extended the NC State lead out to 19-13, but Carolina answered with a quick score on the other end as the pace quickened.
Beejay Anya’s physical play earned him a basket and a foul. The Wolfpack led 21-15 with 7:53 remaining in the half.
Anya kept working the ball inside as the Wolfpack continued to maintain momentum late in the second half. They were running away with it, up 26-15 with 6:08 to play in the half.
Tokoto threw in an athletic jam for the Tar Heels off a steal by Paige while the fouls started flowing from Carolina on the defensive end. Anya responded with a rebound and a score to place the scoreboard at 28-17 with 4:25 to play before halftime.
Paige battled his way around the rim and layed the ball through the nets right before a timeout to narrow the gap down to 28-19 wit 3:38 on the first half clock.
Tokoto swished a deep two-pointer to reduce the arrears down to 28-21. The energy and aggression on the defense was amping up for Carolina in the waning minutes of the half.
The free throw shooting woes continued for McAdoo as he continued to throw up poor attempts that rimmed out. Johnson jammed the ball through the nets to cut the NC State lead down to 32-25 with 1:12 to play before halftime.
Cat Barber was hacked and sent to the foul line, calmly knocking down both to push the lead out to 34-26 with seconds to go in the half.
The halftime stat sheet read in favor of the Wolfpack, not surprisingly. Carolina was shooting at a 38.5 percent clip as a team while NC State was knocking down 44.4 percent of its shots.
Warren was leading the scoring charge for the Wolfpack with 10 points while Tokoto put up 8 points to lead the Tar Heels.
Warren worked his way to the foul line to start the scoring proceedings in the second half. He made one of the free throws.
Paige responded with an acrobatic make while drawing a foul. He missed the point after. The Tar Heels got the rebound off the miss and Meeks drew a foul of his own.
With 18:22 to play, the Tar Heels were trailing 35-29.
Turner drew a foul from McDonald and took full advantage at the line, converting on both to extend the Wolfpack lead out to eight.
Paige dished to Meeks for an easy score around the rim. The score stood at 37-32 in favor of NC State with 15:44 to play in the contest.
The Tar Heels cut the lead down to one at 37-36 with 13:30 to play in the game with a Paige mark that quieted the crowd.
Tokoto made it to the free throw line, but failed to make either basket. Barber scored on the other end for NC State while Johnson matched it to keep the Tar Heels within a single point at 39-28 with 12:18 remaining on the clock.
Turner knocked down a shot from the perimter to ignite the crowd and give the Wolfpack the 42-38 advantage with 11:37 to play.
Paige popped a huge three-point shot to close Carolina to within a trio of points midway through the second half, but Warren answered him for NC State. The home Wolfpack were leading 46-43 with 10:09 to play.
McDonald ran the floor for his first points of the game to keep pace with the suuddenly hot shooting Wolfpack, led by Warren.
Jordan Vandenberg knocked down a pair of foul shots to extend the Wolfpack lead out to 52-45 with 8:55 to go.
Paige was to the rescue again with a snipe from behind the arc to keep Carolina in the game, down 52-48. Warren crucially picked up his fourth foul of the game at the 8:01 mark. The lead was trimmed down to one point once again at 52-51.
Tokoto showed off his athleticism with a foray inside that resulted in a score to give UNC a 53-52 edge with 6:39 to play in the contest.
Lee hit a long-range three-pointer to reclaim the lead for the Wolfpack, but Paige responded again with a make of his won to move Carolina back into the pole position.
Vandenberg finished up a missed shot with a high-flying slam to the delight of the PNC Arena crowd. NC State held a 57-56 advantage with 5:03 left on the clock.
It was turning into a back-and-forth affair in the closing minutes of the game as Tokoto edged the Tar Heels back in front with a score out of a timeout.
Vandenberg blocked a Johnson shot and the Wolfpack were trailing 60-59 with just 3:26 to go.
Nate Britt calmly worked his way to the foul line, nailing down both shots to stake Carolina out to a 62-60 lead, but Warren answered for the Wolfpack to make it a tie game at 62-62 with 2:37 to go in the game.
It was Britt he found himself at the foul line yet again. This time, with the same result, netting both.
Warren answered back with a floater that found the nets to tie the game at 64-64 with 1:39 on the clock. The Tar Heels responded with a couple makes by Paige from the foul line. With 1:23 to play, NC State took a timeout down 66-64.
Warren was the answer again with a make to tie the game up at 66. Paige answered with a big three-pointer, but Turner did the same, tying the game at 69 points with seconds remaining.
NC State had a chance with the ball to win the game, but a loose ball was recovered by UNC, and Paige was fouled. He made both attempts to give Carolina the 771-69 advantage with 3.6 ticks remaining.
Warren was fouled on the inbound pass, sending him to the line for two shots to tie the game. He made both, tying the game at 71 points with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Carolina passed the ball to midcourt and took a timeout with .8 seconds left. Paige’s three-point try was no good and the game was sent to overtime.
Entering overtime, both teams had foul trouble with UNC’s McDonald and Johnson with four and NC State’s Anya and Warren with four as well.
It was Warren who drew first blood in the overtime period to the roar of the crowd. And it was Warren who got back to the foul line after a defensive stop for NC State. He made both to give the Wolfpack the 75-71 lead with 3:10 to play in extra minutes.
Warren took the game over and drove inside for a score and a foul to give the home team the 77-71 advantage. Paige made a clutch three-pointer with hands in his face to reduce the deficit down to three points at 77-74 with 2:36 to play.
Turner popped a three-pointer to extend the Wolfpack lead, but the Tar Heels responded with a basket of their own by Johnson. Warren was just proving too much for the Tar Heels on the night, knocking down another jumper.
It was Paige to the rescue again for Carolina, calmly sinking a long bomb in response. NC State was holding an 82-79 advantage with 1:22 left in overtime.
Paige was fouled following a made free throw by Tyler Lewis. He made both to reduce the Wolfpack lead down to two points with 40 seconds remaining in the overtime.
The Tar Heels got the ball back with 36.9 seconds remaining off an NC State turnover. And Carolina tied it up at 83-83.
But a foul was called on the Tar Heels. Warren was sent to the line. He made one to give NC State the 84-83 edge, but it was Paige who had the ball last, kissing a ball off the glass for the incredible victory.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a road game at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Click here for the game photo gallery.