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Off the cuff: With the score tied at 60-all, Armando Bacot fell trying to cover State's D.J. Burns, who went in for a go-ahead basket. Carolina never tied or led again.

That seemed to symbolize the collapse, not just late in this game but in the season where the Tar Heels have lost five of their last six games.

State fans, who have short memories about their own troubles getting to the NCAA tourney, reveled in the victory late in the game with chants of NIT, NIT directed at the Tar Heels.

They may be right. You can lose games early but you can't have a late-season swoon like this and expect to be picked for the NCAA Tournament, even if you are Carolina.

Still, the sports world has gotten too obsessed with the bracketology stuff, talking incessantly about the last four in and the first four out when there are still four regular season games and a conference tournament to go.

Hell, ESPN would not take bracketologist Joe Lunardi off the damn screen for going on 10 minutes during an interview as the game was being played.

Talk with him for a couple of minutes if you must but shrinking the screen to show the talking head is inexcusable.

Carolina had its chance to take control of the game in the first half as State was cold and taking bad shots. But the Heels turned the ball over eight times, leading to 12 Wolfpack points. Meanwhile, the Pack didn't turn the ball over at all.

As an aside, I don't know what Caleb Love said to get a two-shot technical against him but it cost the Heels a halftime lead. After hitting a three, in which Love's right arm was hit but not called as a foul, the Heels were up 31-30. But Love banged the floor and said something leading to two free throws by Jarkel Joiner which gave State a 32-31 halftime lead.

The game went back and forth before Joiner took over the last 10 minutes and erased a six-point Carolina lead. State's biggest lead of the game was 12 at 75-63 with 90 seconds left.

During the game, there were 11 tie scores and 12 lead changes.

While it doesn't help Carolina fans at this point, UNC is 36-6 against NC State in the last 42 meetings and is still 18-6 against State in PNC Arena.

N.C. State 77, Carolina 69
Late hot streak lifts Pack over Tar Heels

N.C. State, a rare favorite over North Carolina, hit nine shots in a row late to erase a six-point deficit and get an important win at home over the Tar Heels, 77-69. (2/19)

North Carolina, squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, fell flat over the last 10 minutes of the game just as State's Jarkel Joiner was scoring 18 of his game-high 29 points.

The Tar Heels took the largest lead for either team with a three from R.J. Davis that made it 54-48 with 10:22 to go. The Pack went on a 7-0 run in a minute, 15 seconds to take a 55-54 lead. Jack Clark's three put the Pack up with 7:49 to go.

The lead went back and forth until a Pack 9-0 run with the score tied at 60. Joiner got seven of those points to put the Wolfpack up 69-60 with 3:55 left.

"Joiner just took over," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "He hit tough shots, jumpers... They just stepped up and we didn't."

It never got closer than six the rest of the way.

"We had opportunities and didn't take advantage of them," Coach Davis said. "We were up by six and had three opportunities to extend the lead and I think we had two turnovers and a missed layup."

He added that the Tar Heels had open shots and free throw opportunities but didn't make the plays. Meanwhile, State, especially in the second half, hit some tough shots.

State's D.J. Burns hurt the Heels hitting nine of 15 shots for 18 points. "You can double team him and he can still hit a 10 foot, left-handed jump hook over you," Coach Davis said.

While people will remember the Pack's late hot streak, just as importantly State did not turn the ball over in the first half while scoring 12 points off eight Carolina turnovers to take a 32-31 halftime lead.

"It's not just about the end of the game," Coach Davis said. "If we had cut some turnovers in the first half, we could have been up by 10 at the half."

Caleb Love, who hit four of eight threes, led Carolina with 23 points but he turned the ball over four times and was only seven of 17 from the floor. Armando Bacot had 16 points and 14 rebounds. It was a rough shooting night for R.J. Davis as he managed to score on only two of 13 shots, including one of six from beyond the arc.

No 23 N.C State, winners of 10 of its last 13 games, improves to 21-7 and 11-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Tar Heels, now 16-11 overall record and 8-8 conference, travels to Notre Dame on Wednesday. With only four games left in regular season play, some believe Carolina must win all four to get in the NCAA Tournament.

Box score

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