Raleigh, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcus Paige scored 23 points and No. 15 North Carolina escaped Duke's fate by beating North Carolina State 81-79 on Wednesday night.
Paige made all five of his 3-pointers, the last one giving the Tar Heels a 71-60 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left, but they had to hang on down the stretch.
The Wolfpack trimmed the deficit to one point and nearly tied the score at the buzzer after Abdul-Malik Abu missed a foul shot high off the rim on purpose, but Cody Martin's tip-in attempt didn't fall.
Kennedy Meeks added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Hicks scored 12 for the Tar Heels (13-4, 3-1 ACC), who played their third consecutive close game.
They rallied from 13 down in the second half for a 72-71 win over then-No. 5 Louisville in Chapel Hill on Saturday, which followed a one-point loss to nationally ranked Notre Dame earlier in the week.
Ralston Turner had 20 points to lead NC State (12-6, 3-2) and Trevor Lacey scored 19 in the Wolfpack's third straight game against a ranked opponent.
They upset then-No. 2 Duke 87-75 on Sunday after losing to current No. 2 Virginia last Wednesday.
North Carolina gave up 12 offensive rebounds to the Wolfpack in the first half but shot better than 58 percent from the field for a 32-26 lead at the break.
The lead changed hands eight times before the Tar Heels ended the half on a 7-1 run for their six-point lead.
They pushed it to double digits in the second half with a 10-0 run highlighted by Meeks' dunk. Later, Turner led a 9-1 Wolfpack burst, scoring seven of the points to get them within three with two minutes remaining.
North Carolina's lead was never higher than five the rest of the way. Lacey's 3-pointer cut it to 76-74 with 16 seconds left and the teams traded foul shots the rest of the way until Abu and Martin's failed attempt with 0.2 seconds on the clock.
North Carolina leads the all-time series 151-76, including four consecutive wins ... Tar Heels coach Roy Williams improved to 28-2 against NC State in his career, including 23-2 at North Carolina ... North Carolina hosts Virginia Tech on Sunday ... NC State visits Florida State on Saturday.