CHAPEL HILL - For the second time in as many games, North Carolina celebrated the success of players from last season. But this time, they managed to ease the suffering of this one, too.
Carolina stayed strong late in an ugly game to beat rival N.C. State 74-61 with several hundred former Tar Heel players looking on and two newly honored jerseys in the rafters.
"It's a wonderful weekend, and I told the kids, let's do our part," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
With the win, the Tar Heels (14-11, 3-7 in the ACC) snapped a four-game losing streak and put a little distance between themselves and the ACC cellar.
That was the good news.
The bad news was that Carolina's only two wins in the past nine games have come at the expense of the Wolfpack (14-12, 2-9), who are now on a four-game losing streak themselves.
"We had to come out here and play," freshman Dexter Strickland said. "This game was a must win."
Luckily for the Tar Heels, Larry Drew II always seems to play that way against State.
Drew, who had 15 points, seven assists and just two turnovers, iced the win with five straight points that put UNC up 12 with less than three minutes to go.
"I definitely think I need this kind of game, and we needed it as a team," Drew said.
Before Drew sealed the game, Carolina had led by double figures before allowing the Wolfpack to cut the lead to four with six minutes remaining.
The Tar Heels answered State, though, with a 3-point play from freshman John Henson, who started at forward in place of the injured Ed Davis, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken wrist.
With the starting nod and plenty of extra minutes-Carolina was also missing Travis Wear up front because of a severe ankle sprain-Henson picked up nine points and eight rebounds.
"It was nerve wracking," Henson said. "But after the tip, I got all the jitters out."
Carolina led 33-31 at halftime because it allowed the Wolfpack to answer a big run with the final seven points of the period.
That negated a 16-4 UNC run that included 10 consecutive points and pushed the lead to nine.
At halftime, Carolina honored more than 200 former letter-winners as part of the program's alumni weekend.
And before the game, UNC recognized a pair of former Tar Heels from last year's national championship team, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, who had their jerseys honored with spots in the Smith Center rafters.
"It's amazing," Lawson said. "To be up here in the rafters with all the greats and the legends, I feel good right now. It means a lot. When I first got here, I really didn't think my jersey would be in the rafters. Seeing the former players like Michael Jordan and James Worthy and all them up there just made me work harder and harder. To this day, it's one of my dreams that I finally accomplished to get in the rafters."
Ellington said he still could hardly believe that his name and number were hanging up there among the most famous names in Carolina basketball history.
"It's crazy," Ellington said. "When you're a kid, you dream about stuff like that. When I came on my recruiting visit, that's one of the things that I looked at when I came into the Smith Center. I saw all the jerseys up there and all the banners. It's really special to be part of that."