Williams counts his stars after escaping Cleveland St.
Posted: Saturday November 29, 2003 6:43PM; Updated: Sunday November 30, 2003 12:11AM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Seconds into his postgame news conference, coach Roy Williams peeked down at the stat sheet just to make sure North Carolina was still unbeaten.
Somehow, the Tar Heels were.
"I've never won the lottery, but when you do, I'm pretty sure you feel as lucky as I do now," Williams said.
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.
The 6-foot-9 junior, who went to high school in Cleveland and had 42 family members on hand, drilled his 3 from the right wing as the Tar Heels (3-0) overcame a four-point deficit by scoring the game's final 10 points.
"It was a lot of fun to come home and win in front of my family and friends," he said. "At the same time, it was a wake-up call for us. It was an ugly win."
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 in just their third game under coach Mike Garland, a former Michigan State assistant.
"We knew we could take them," Westley said. "We knew it wasn't far-fetched. We were hoping to celebrate here in the press conference."
Williams scored 24 points, Sean May 19 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 throw, Williams tipped out the miss to keep possession for Carolina.
"I don't remember the sequence," Williams said. "All I know is I had to help us get another possession. Hitting that shot was just a bonus."
A huge one. His 3-pointer -- only the Tar Heels' second in 11 tries -- put UNC up 78-76 and after Coles misfired with 1:12 left, Raymond Felton made two free throws to give Carolina its biggest lead since the first half.
Coles then 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.
Roy Williams said his team worked this week on keeping the ball alive on plays just like the one Jawad Williams made.
"It's the little things that are big," the coach said. "We showed tapes of it during the week. He did a good job there. A little play like that gets awfully big in a game like this."
The Vikings, who dropped to 1-22 all-time vs. AP Top 25 teams, went 9-for-27 on 3-pointers. They missed their final five behind the line -- and a chance at one of the biggest wins in school history.
"There's no satisfaction in going out and playing close," said Garland, hired in April after Rollie Massimino resigned. "We didn't come here to play close, we came to win. There's a lot of hurt and heartache in that locker room."
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 whacked on the left knee.
Felton returned a few minutes later, but Manuel suffered a sprained knee and did not come back.
"We missed him," Roy Williams said. "He's a guy we can count on. Without him, we had five guys out there who thought they were back in high school and God's gift to the game."