RALEIGH — It was, in so many ways, a classic N.C. State-North Carolina game.
"Just an unbelievable basketball game," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels won it 85-84 in overtime Wednesday at PNC Arena, but only after 45 intense, competitive, entertaining minutes that kept the fans on their feet and the coaches on edge.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige, never better, had a career-high 35 points for North Carolina, which won its 10th straight game. His last two points came with less than a second remaining, on a darting drive, the ball softly kissing the glass.
Off the charts, Williams said of Paige. Hes a confident youngster. Hes a tough youngster. Hes a competitive rascal. Hes willing to make plays.
As N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said, the Tar Heels made one more play than the Wolfpack in the end. It happened to be Paiges drive.
On the Wolfpack side, sophomore T.J. Warren did what he does best score. Warren, the ACCs leading scorer, had 36 points and it was his free throw with 7.7 seconds left in the overtime that pushed the Wolfpack ahead 84-83.
Spectacular basketball, Gottfried said of the Warren-Paige duel. That was something. Paige had one more chance with it.
Warren stepped to the line and knocked in two foul shots with 1.5 seconds left in regulation for a 71-71 tie. He then scored the first six points of overtime for the Wolfpack as N.C. State grabbed a six-point lead.
Paige, after missing his first three shots of overtime, didnt stop shooting. He nailed two 3-pointers, then two free throws, and an inside basket by James Michael McAdoo tied the score 83 for the Tar Heels with 30.5 seconds left.
McAdoos basket came after Warren lost the ball out of bounds while double-teamed in the backcourt a call that had Wolfpack fans howling. With the Wolfpack holding the ball for a last shot, McAdoo fouled Warren on the baseline.
Warren missed the first free throw and N.C. State fans groaned. He hit the second, only to have Paige deliver the game-winner.
Im extremely proud of our team, Gottfried said. I loved our effort. I loved our competitiveness. Although Im really disappointed, I love our future.
Im hurting for our guys right now because I felt they laid it on the line. They gave everything they could give.
The Tar Heels (21-7, 11-4 ACC) trailed by eight points at halftime as Paige had a slow start, McAdoo couldnt find the range and the team missed free throws.
Freshman center BeeJay Anya gave the Wolfpack (17-11,7-8) a boost in the first half and had fans roaring on a three-point play, flexing his biceps.
Better defense and more efficient offense by North Carolina, foul trouble for Warren, and Paiges sudden resurgence made for a tight, tense game in the second half. J.P. Tokoto (16 points, 10 rebounds) made key baskets for the Tar Heels, but so did Ralston Turner (16 points) for the Wolfpack.
But this game belonged to Paige and Warren. It was punch, counter-punch.
Paige had 31 of his points in the second half and overtime. Warren, in turn, had 26 points over the final 25 minutes.
Marcus did not play well in the first half, but in the second half thats about as good an exhibition as Ive ever seen, Williams said. On the other end, T.J. we couldnt stop. He was as good a player as we played against all year long.
It was the seventh time this season Warren has scored 30 or more, but the loss was another dagger for N.C. State and its dwindling hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for a third straight year.
Gottfried noted the Wolfpacks one-point loss at Syracuse, when the Orange was unbeaten and ranked No. 1. Now, another.
Weve had a couple of near-misses that have just been gut-wrenching, Gottried said. Its hard.
I thought we made some great plays at key times. And so did they. T.J was absolutely sensational. Just a tough one, a tough one to walk out of here tonight.
Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip