Heels escape, 82-76

CLEVELAND – Jawad Williams made a critical 3-pointer with 1:27 left and No. 9 North Carolina survived a scare Saturday with an 82-76 victory over gutsy Cleveland State.

Williams, who went to high school in Cleveland, drilled his three-pointer from the right wing as the Tar Heels (3-0) overcame a four-point deficit by scoring the game's final 10 points. Omari Westley scored 20 points and Percell Coles had 15 -- all on 3-pointers -- for the Vikings (2-1), who won just eight games last season but more then held their own against one of the nation's elite programs.

Williams scored 24 points, Sean May 19 points and Rashad McCants 18 for North Carolina, which trailed 76-72 when Coles buried his fourth 3-pointer of the second half with three minutes left. The basket sent the crowd of 11,534, the second largest in Convocation Center, into a frenzy and had CSU fans dreaming of an upset on the scale of the Vikings' win over Indiana in the 1986 NCAA tournament.

But Williams muscled inside for a basket and after McCants made the first of two free throws, Williams tipped out the miss to keep possession for Carolina.

The 6-foot-9 junior then hit his 3-pointer -- only the Tar Heels' second in 11 tries -- to put UNC up 78-76. Coles misfired for Cleveland State with 1:12 left and Raymond Felton made two free throws to give Carolina its biggest lead since the first half.

Coles missed another 3 with 23 seconds to go and Melvin Scott put it away for the Tar Heels by making two free throws with 8.5 seconds to play.v The Vikings, who are 1-22 all-time vs. AP Top 25 teams, went 9-for-27 on 3-pointers, but missed their final five behind the line.

North Carolina was in control early, bolting to 29-16 lead in the first half when the Vikings suddenly found their outside range and confidence.

Victor Morris hit a 3-pointer and freshman Patrick Tatham made two free throws as Cleveland State used an 11-0 run to take a 35-33 lead with 2:43 left in the half.

Two free throws by Williams put Carolina back up by two, but Coles hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left and Walt Chavis banked in a 3 with four seconds left as the Vikings took a stunning 41-37 halftime lead.

The Tar Heels got a scare midway through the opening half when Felton and teammate Jackie Manuel were injured on the same play. Felton was trying to draw a charging foul on Westley, and when the two collided and fell in the lane, an unsuspecting Manuel was hit on the left knee.

Felton returned a few minutes later, but Manuel spent the rest of the game on the bench with his knee wrapped.

Roy Williams

On winning today's game: "I've never won the lottery, when you win the lottery you must feel as lucky as I do now. Mike and his staff outcoached us, they played with more intelligence and deserved to win the game.

On the final six minutes: "I am pleased with the way we competed and held our poise the last six minutes. ... Jawad, I think, really wanted it badly and I thought it was fitting that he made that last 3."

On losing the early lead: "Cleveland State kept coming after us. We had the lead up to 14 in the first half and we thought it wouldwould be easy. We became casual. My team has had adversity the last few years. I am proud of the way we played the last six minutes."


Jawad Williams

On playing in his hometown: "To win here is a great feeling. I had a lot of friends and family here today."

On losing the early lead: "We had a lapse. It's an ugly win, but we have to learn from this. We learned we have to play every possession, it doesn't matter who we're facing. ... "We did do a good job of grinding it out, but it's the only thing we can take from this, really. We have to realize that we've got to go out there and play every possession, no matter who we're playing against."

On the final six minutes of the game: "We stopped talking and started doing what we were talking about."

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