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McCants' 3s give Tar Heels momentum late

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Rashad McCants came through in the clutch
again for North Carolina.

The sophomore scored a game-high 22 points and hit two key
3-pointers late to lift the 12th-ranked Tar Heels past No. 14 North
Carolina State 71-64 Sunday.

Jawad Williams scored 15 points off the bench for the Tar Heels
(17-8, 7-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who let another big lead
slip away before holding on for just their second road win in
league play.

Raymond Felton added 10 points and also hit two key shots late.

The win allowed the Tar Heels to sweep the season series with
the Wolfpack (18-7, 10-4). A loss would have marked the first time
they had not swept at least one ACC team in a season since joining
the conference in 1953.

More importantly, the Tar Heels overcame yet another blown lead
to hand N.C. State its first loss in 15 home games.

Already this season, North Carolina squandered a 24-point
first-half lead in an overtime loss to Florida State and lost
second-half leads in losses to Kentucky, Duke and Virginia. On
Sunday, North Carolina led by as many as 16 points in the first
half.

"We've had five games where in the final seconds we've had the
ball and didn't win," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I
asked everyone to play tougher today and they did."

McCants certainly answered the call. He went 8-for-14 from the
field, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. His two 3s added to
late-game heroics that included consecutive 3-pointers to beat
Connecticut in January and a banked-in 3 to turn away a Maryland
rally two weeks ago.

"He had a couple of shots that were just daggers to us down the
stretch," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said.

In addition, Jawad Williams, who was benched in favor of David
Noel for defensive purposes, went 6-for-7 from the floor and added
two blocked shots in 24 minutes.

"If anything, it motivated me," said Williams, who had started
22 of 23 games he had played in this season. "I kind of considered
it a slap in the face, but I went out there and played for my
teammates."

North Carolina shot 56 percent and held the Wolfpack to 36
percent shooting. Both totals were season-best performances for the
Tar Heels in league play.

In addition, N.C. State shot just 8-for-34 from 3-point range.

The Wolfpack trailed 40-27 at halftime, but played with better
defensive intensity to erase the deficit. N.C. State eventually
took a 56-54 lead on Engin Atsur's reverse layup off an offensive
rebound with 4:24 to play.

But on the next play, McCants hid behind a pick from Noel on the
left side and hit a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Julius
Hodge for a 57-56 lead.

Felton lost the ball on the right wing in front of the North
Carolina bench on the next possession. McCants picked it up and
launched a fadeaway 3 to beat the shot clock.

"When (Felton) lost it, all I was thinking was to just shoot
it," McCants said. "I don't pray when I shoot. I knew it was
going in."

The ball swished through the net with 3:04 left, stunning the
rowdy RBC Center crowd and giving the Tar Heels a 60-56 lead.

"He's clutch. That's all I said to him coming down the floor,"
said Sean May, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "He's hit
every big shot for us this year. I think he wants that pressure."

McCants followed those shots by rebounding a missed 3 from
Atsur, and passing it to Felton for a transition score and a 62-56
lead.

Felton added a hanging, double-pump shot in the lane just before
the shot clock expired for a 64-59 lead with 1:03 left. The
Wolfpack got no closer than four points after that.

North Carolina hit 16 of 28 shots in the first half to take
control, building a 40-24 lead on Melvin Scott's 3-pointer late in
the half. The Tar Heels held N.C. State to 10-for-35 shooting in
the half.

"They just made big shots early on and that kind of set the
tone for the game," said Marcus Melvin, who led the Wolfpack with
18 points and 10 rebounds. "In the second half, we were a little
more aggressive. That kind of bent the game to our favor, but by
then it was a little too late."

Neither team was at full strength. Top reserve and defensive ace
Jackie Manuel was sidelined with an ankle injury for North
Carolina, while N.C. State's Scooter Sherrill missed most of the
second half with a badly sprained ankle.