RALEIGH, N.C. — T.J. Warren did just about everything possible to help North Carolina State end rival North Carolina's winning streak. In the end, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading scorer came up a play or two short.
Warren scored a career-high 36 points in Wednesday night's 85-84 overtime loss to the 19th-ranked Tar Heels, his seventh 30-point performance of the season.
"T.J. was sensational," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said, "just absolutely sensational."
Warren made 13 of 25 shots and scored 26 points after halftime, with much of that production coming against top UNC defender J.P. Tokoto. He was unstoppable with his floater in the lane and he made 9 of 13 free throws, including two with 1.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
The only blips came when he committed a turnover in the backcourt that led to James Michael McAdoo's tying basket with 30.5 seconds left, then he made 1 of 2 free throws with 7.7 seconds left to give N.C. State an 84-83 lead — only to see UNC's Marcus Paige hit a driving shot with 0.9 seconds left to win it.
"Everybody was down, but everybody's keeping their heads up and moving forward," Warren said. "Just get this one behind us. It's over now. We've got to keep moving forward and think positive."
Paige finished with a career-high 35 points — 31 after halftime — and seven 3-pointers for the Tar Heels (21-7, 11-4 ACC), who won their 10th straight. UNC needed every bit of that production to outlast Warren's Wolfpack (17-11, 7-8).
The Tar Heels were down 11 points in the first half and by six with 2 minutes left in overtime, but clawed back to win in a classic finish between nearby rivals.
Warren's final desperation heave after Paige's basket wasn't close, sealing the Tar Heels' 16th win in 17 meetings.
The Tar Heels are on a 10-game winning streak for the first time since February 2009. And the win inched them closer to earning a top-four seed in the ACC tournament in Greensboro and the double-round bye that comes with it.
For the Wolfpack, it was a potentially devastating loss for a team fighting to improve its NCAA tournament chances. It was the second time in four games N.C. State lost on a last-second basket to a ranked team, going back to a loss at then-No. 1 Syracuse on Feb. 15.
N.C. State appeared to have control by scoring the first six points of the overtime, all from Warren, and taking an 82-76 lead on Warren's basket over McAdoo with 1:34 left.
But Paige answered with a tough 3-pointer over Ralston Turner at the 1:25 mark, then hit two free throws with 41.6 seconds left to close the gap to 83-81 with 41.6 seconds left. The Wolfpack got the ball to Warren in the backcourt, but with McAdoo and freshman Nate Britt closing in on a trap, Warren bobbled the ball out of bounds to set up McAdoo's tying basket.
Paige finished 11 for 21 from the field overall and 7 for 12 from 3-point range in 41 minutes. It marked the 12th time this season Paige has scored in double figures after halftime after scoring four or fewer points in the first half.
Tokoto added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who trailed by 11 points in the first half and 34-26 at halftime. UNC shot 50 percent in the second half and overtime, and even hit its last 10 free throws after a bad start at the line.
Turner finished with 16 points for the Wolfpack, who shot 47 percent.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap