But it was a couple of non-calls that sent N.C. State into a tizzy.
Alex Johnson went flying on Marshall's drive, but there was no whistle from the officials. The Wolfpack (22-12) got one more crack with 1.2 seconds left, and Richard Howell thought he was fouled trying to get off a shot after getting his hand on a long pass.
A frustrated Howell had to be pulled away by a couple of teammates to keep him from going after an official, while coach Mark Gottfried slapped his hands and argued vehemently for a foul. The regular-season champion Tar Heels will face either No. 6 Duke or No. 17 Florida State in the title game, looking to lock up a top seed in the NCAA tournament if they haven't already.
N.C. State came to Atlanta figuring two wins would be enough to claim its first NCAA bid since 2006. The Wolfpack accomplished that goal, but it will still be a nerve-racking Sunday as they await the announcement of the 68-team field.
The Tar Heels played without ACC defensive player of the year John Henson, who sprained his left wrist early on in a quarterfinal victory over Maryland. He didn't even bother dressing out for the semifinals, watching the game from the bench wearing a suit and a brace on his ailing wrist. Lorenzo Brown scored 16 points and nearly bailed out the shorthanded Wolfpack. He split the defense for a rim-hanging dunk, then flew back toward the top of the lane, bounced off Barnes to draw the foul, rolled in a fallaway shot and sank the free throw to complete a three-point play that tied it at 66 with 1:31 to go.
DeShawn Painter and Barnes traded free throws to set up the wild finish.
Marshall, who had 12 points and 10 assists, dribbled near midcourt to let the shot clock wind down, then took off down the left side of the lane with Johnson trying to stay with him. The N.C. State guard planted his feet and thought he drew the charge, going down extra hard for effect. The officials didn't buy it, and Marshall pulled up for the easy shot with no one in his face.
The Wolfpack took off the other way, and Scott Wood tried to zip a quick pass underneath the basket to Howell. But Justin Watts stepped in to pick off the ball and just flung it high toward the other end of the court, hoping N.C. State wouldn't catch up with it until the clock ran out. But Johnson got to it and wisely called time with 1.2 seconds left.
N.C. State had a 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. North Carolina coach Roy 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. A total of 42 fouls were called.
Henson's replacement, James Michael McAdoo, was whistled for his third foul late in the first half, another blow to North Carolina's dwindling depth. The Wolfpack had its own foul issues; C.J. Williams picked up three, while Leslie and Richard Howell each had two by the break.
Leslie wasn't around at the end. He picked up his fourth foul on a disputed call at the offensive end, but Gottfried left his top scorer on the court. That decision backfired when less than a minute later, Leslie came over the back of Barnes to pick up his fifth foul.