WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 6 (UPI) -- Josh Howard, playing on an injured ankle, scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half Wednesday night as No. 10 Wake Forest rolled over North Carolina, 75-60.
With the win, the Demon Deacons clinched a share of the regular-season title in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
After missing eight of his first 11 shots, Howard got hot in the second half and helped Wake Forest (22-4,12-3 ACC) pull away from the overmatched Tar Heels, who hung tough for the first 30 minutes.
"I was more worried about the butterflies than the ankle, especially in the first half," Howard said. "But I just continued to fight through it, and my teammates stepped up as they have all season. It's been a wonderful four year, and I appreciate everything everyone has done for me."
After North Carolina pulled to within 52-47 on a tip-in by freshman David Noel with just under 10 minutes left, Howard scored eight points in a 10-2 burst, which he capped with a three-pointer at the 7:27 mark for a 62-49 advantage.
Playing at home didn' hurt.
"I think our students have been tremendous," said Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser. "One of our long-term goals is to make this (Joel Coliseum) a tough place to play that is conducive to a home crowd and a home-court advantage."
Howard also grabbed nine boards to pace the Demon Deacons to a 40-28 advantage on the boards.
Wake Forest now leads Maryland by one game for first place in the ACC, with Duke 1 1/2 back. The Demon Deacons can capture their first outright conference regular-season title since 1962 with a win at North Carolina State this weekend.
Jawad Williams scored 17 points for the Tar Heels (15-14, 5-10), who lost their eighth straight on the road.
"It's frustrating to give such a great effort and come up short," said North Carolina Coach Matt Doherty. "I'm proud of the guys. They played hard and gave us a possibility to win against a great team. We just came up short."
Jackie Manuel scored 12 points and McCants had 10 for the Tar Heels, who shot 40 percent (22-of-55), and committed 18 turnovers.