Still, Williams called Watts' defensive effort the biggest play of the game.
"We had new assignments at the timeout as to who was guarding who and had a mix-up," the coach said. "Painter was underneath the basket wide open and I'm screaming 'Go get him!' to one of our guys. J-Watts, who was not his man, heard or saw me ... and sprinted down there and saved us, because they were throwing it to Painter for a layup."
N.C. State had another chance at a tying shot, flinging a long pass toward Howell with Barnes and Reggie Bullock in his face. Howell got a hand on it and turned to shoot, but the ball was flicked away and the horn sounded.
The Wolfpack went basket-for-basket with the regular-season champs in the first half. The lead changed hands 10 times, there were five ties and the margin was never more than five points either way. Williams wasn't happy with his team, breaking his clipboard during a first-half timeout.
With just under 5 minutes remaining in the half, Marshall picked up his second foul trying to cut off an N.C. State fastbreak. The Tar Heels' most valuable player went to the bench for the rest of the period, but managed to avoid another call.
That wasn't the case for nearly everyone else as a total of 42 fouls were called in the game.
Leslie picked up his fourth on a disputed play at the offensive end, but Gottfried wasn't aware of it. Leslie must not have known either, because he came over the back of Barnes to pick up his fifth a short time later.
That left Brown to carry the load.
He almost pulled it out.
"We knew," Brown said, "that we had to step it up the best way we could."
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