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Off the cuff: The game at Clemson looked like it might be like many hard-fought games down there where the teams battle back and forth and then Carolina pulls away late to win by eight to 10 points.

But this game was anything but normal. First, UNC coach Roy Williams had perhaps his worse case of vertigo during a game and went to the locker room with less than a minute until halftime - and he didn't come back.

Then, the Heels worked the lead up to nine once and seven several times but it got closer toward the end rather than Carolina opening it up late, as they are apt to do.

Coach Williams spoke to the media briefly at the end of the game before yielding to interim head coach Steve Robinson. "I just wanted to let you know I'm alive and not going to croak on anybody," Coach Williams said.

He said he started feeling better by the time Carolina had opened up a six or seven-point lead but he didn't want to jinx Robinson. He said his hiring Robinson was one of the best decisions he ever made.

For the record, the margin was two when Coach Williams left the game and the margin was two at the end of the game.

A lot happened in between however. UNC's Sterling Manley saw a little action after being out injured since December. The lead changed hands four times even though Carolina was in control much of the second half.

Luke Maye, who scored just two points in the first half, responded well in the second half with 11 points. With the Heels down 54-50, Maye hit a three from the right wing to make it 54-53. Then he made a spinning move for a basket and drawing a foul. The old-fashioned three-point play put Carolina back up 56-54.

It took another senior, Kenny Williams, to give Carolina the lead for good on a jump shot that made it 58-57 and to keep the lead with three of four free throws late.

Tar Heels 88, Miami 85
Roy-less Tar Heels hang on over Tigers

After North Carolina had taken a two-point lead late in the first half, UNC coach Roy Williams went down like he'd been shot. Without Coach Williams, suffering from vertigo, the Heels worked a lead up to nine in the 2nd half but had to hold on for an 81-79 win at Clemson. (3/2)

Once again, it was the offensive production of Coby White who made the difference for the Heels as he led the way with 28 points.

But a few bonehead plays by the freshman made it close at the end. White tried to squeeze through a couple of defenders but Marcquise Reed, who led the Tigers with 24 points, stripped him and went in for a layup to cut the score to 75-70 with 1:13 left.

After making just one of two free throws and after Clemson had cut it to 78-75, White missed a runner and fouled Clyde Trapp, who made both ends of a one-and-one to make it a one-point game at 78-77 with 18 seconds left.

UNC senior Kenny Williams calmly swished a pair of free throws in a one-and-one situation of his own to put the Heels up 80-77 with 12 seconds left. But instead of making Clemson eat clock to get the ball down the court and put up a three, White purposely fouled Shelton Mitchell, an 85 percent free throw shooter.

The coaches jumped off the bench in dismay by White's decision. He evidently thought it was better to give them two - which is what happened after Mitchell hit both free throws - than to allow them to have a chance to tie it with a three.

But with so much time left, Williams, who was fouled, again had to make two free throws to ensure the Tigers could do no better than tie it at the end. But Williams missed the second free throw, giving Clemson a chance to tie or win with nine seconds to go.

Clemson's Mitchell took it the length of the court, and collided with White as nothing - not a foul on either player or a travel on Mitchell - was called. White came up with it, passed to Brooks, who passed it to Williams who threw the ball down court. A Clemson heave at the buzzer was off and Carolina had escaped.

Clemson led by as many as six points in the first half and Carolina, ahead 39-35 at the half, led by as many as nine in the second half.

But Clemson erased the UNC lead to take a 57-56 lead with just over eight minutes to play on a three-pointer by Aamir Simms.

Within seconds, Kenny Williams responded with a long two-point shot from straight away to put the Heels up 58-57 with just under eight minutes to play.

Twice Carolina worked the lead up to seven on Cam Johnson threes from the top of the key. The Tar Heels led 77-70 with a minute to go before the late-game drama.

Joining White in double figures were Johnson, who scored 19, and Luke Maye, who had 13.

Interim head coach Steve Robinson, who has been a head coach before and who has been Coach Williams' assistant for 16 years, said it's not easy to take over in the middle of a game but he's done it before and the players are used to hearing his voice all the time at practice.

"I need to give them confidence and they need to play and play well," Robinson said.

"It was a big-time win on the road in a tough environment," he said. "They never went away. We made enough shots at the end to win the game."

The Tar Heels improve to 24-5 and 14-2 in the conference, remaining tied for first with Virginia. Clemson falls to 17-12 and 7-8 in the ACC.

Box score

Assistant coach Steve Robinson, center, had to take over and coach the entire second half after UNC coach Roy Williams went out with vertigo. (UNC Sports Information photo by Dawson Powers.)

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