It didn't matter that the Wolfpack blew a 19-point second half lead. Or fouled Jack McClinton on a 3-pointer on the previous possession. Or that a freshman point guard who hadn't played since the 10-minute mark of regulation was taking the final shot in overtime.
When the ball rattled through the net with 2.6 seconds left, all that mattered was the final score. And when Miami's halfcourt heave bounced harmlessly off the rim, the Pack walked away with a 84-81 win on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
"It looked real good when I shot it," Mays said. "I knew it wasn't going to be shot, it was either going to be long or roll in and out but it went right in."
But Mays wasn't the lone hero for the Pack (11-7, 2-4) during the overtime period. Courtney Fells, who set a career high with 24 points, hit a big 3-pointer then forced a Miami (11-7, 2-4 ACC) turnover in the final 30 seconds and hit a pair of free-throws to help the Pack pick up its second ACC victory of the season.
"If you watch our games that we lost or that we won its just guys making the big play," head coach Sidney Lowe said.
As big as Fells was on the offensive end, Lowe gave him more praise for his defensive play on McClinton. Despite scoring a game-high 27 points, Lowe said the Fells played tough defense on the All-ACC point guard.
"I thought Courtney did a great job," Lowe said. "That was a well-earned 27. He made everything tough for him."
The Pack helped itself offensively by taking care of the ball, coughing the ball up just 10 times in the win. For Lowe, who's watched his team struggle to keep turnover numbers down, it was a small victory that lead to a bigger win.
"If we have 10 turnovers in a ball game we are gonna have a chance to win every night," Lowe said.
Fells and the Pack took it to the Hurricanes from the opening tip off, as the Pack went with a big line-up featuring Costner, Ben McCauley and Tracey Smith. The 'Canes got Smith out of the game quickly as the freshman picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and remained on the bench the rest of the half.
"It's just a matter of guys playing hard whatever line-up is in there," Costner said. "As long as everybody is focused on their job and focused on what they need to be doing we should be able to be successful."
Some easy inside baskets to start the game forced Miami to go to a zone defense, opening up the outside shots for the Pack. No one took advantage of the openings more than Fells, who hit on 4-of-5 from behind the arc on his way to 14 first-half points. As a team, the Pack shot 53 percent from behind the arc in the half.
But as much as the 3-pointer helped, its what the Pack didn't do in the first half that helped them build a 14-point lead. The Pack turned the ball over just twice, a season low for a half, and the Pack's guards committed no turnovers in that time. The shooting and the ball security added up to a 39-25 halftime lead for the home team.
But after extending its lead to 19 points at the outset of the second half, the Pack allowed Miami to whittle away at the advantage. An 18-4 run cut the lead to five points before a shot-clocking beating 3-pointer from Trevor Ferguson righted the ship briefly. But the Canes would take the lead with another 11-0 run, only to have the Pack battle back and force overtime.
"They got back in the game but credit our defense, credit our guys we did not give up," McCauley said. "It's so easy to give up after a 19-point lead when they take the lead its so easy just to pack your bags and go home. But guys fought through it – just a great team win really."
The Pack we'll need an even more complete team effort this weekend, as arch-rival No. 5 North Carolina visits Raleigh on Saturday.