Nic Wise needed more time to climb atop a courtside table to celebrate Wednesday than he did in beating either of the Arizona Wildcats' past two opponents.
For the second time in three days, Wise made a game-winner in the final second for the UA, this time making a layup against a tight defense to knock off North Carolina State 76-74 at McKale Center.
Wise made a controversial three-pointer as time expired on Monday to give UA an 83-82 win over Lipscomb, when replays showed the ball leaving Wise's hands both with time left and time expired.
"It was a little different," Wise said. "This time I had the ball in my hands the whole time. But pretty much the same thing was going through my mind the whole time - the will not to lose, to draw the foul or make the play."
Wise made the play through several N.C. State defenders, allowing the Wildcats to hang on after their six-point lead with 36 seconds was completely erased.
"Coach is telling us not to let Wise bail us out, but he is," forward Jamelle Horne said. "The man had a great opportunity to make it. That's just a great feeling to make that."
But, already having played three overtime games, the Wildcats didn't make it easy on themselves. They built a 69-61 lead in the final minute, but N.C. State guard Javier Gonzalez hit a three-pointer to cut UA's lead to just 71-70 with 20 seconds left.
After N.C. State started fouling, Solomon Hill hit two free throws and Kyle Fogg hit 1 of 2, leaving the Wolfpack behind only 74-72 with 12 seconds left. Gonzalez drove inside for a layup to tie it at 74 with 6.1 seconds left before Wise drove inside for a layup with 0.9 seconds left.
"You almost expect it to come down to the wire and almost expect it to go into overtime," UA coach Sean Miller said. "We weren't as smart in the last three minutes. … You don't want to give a team a full-court run. Why would you do that? I'm glad we can learn that lesson with a win."
But before their late-game breakdown, the Wildcats appeared different Wednesday and the returns of Horne and Kevin Parrom from injuries weren't the only reasons why.
The Wildcats also gained intensity and cohesion not seen in their overtime win over Lipscomb two days earlier.
Arizona forced 20 turnovers by N.C. State while shooting 45.6 percent from the field.
The win moved Arizona to 6-5 entering a two-day break for Christmas. The Wildcats will return Saturday to begin preparing for a Monday game with BYU, their final nonconference tuneup before beginning Pac-10 play on Dec. 31 at USC.
N.C. State dropped to 8-3.
Horne did not start but played early in the first half after Miller expressed doubt about his short-term future on Monday after the Wildcats beat Lipscomb. Horne said he might not be able to play until February, though UA said Tuesday his injury was just day-to-day and only a sprained foot.
Horne said he and Miller discussed the injury on Tuesday.
Parrom arrived on the scene slightly earlier than expected, after sitting out since UA's Nov. 10 exhibition with Western New Mexico because of a foot stress fracture. Miller said Saturday he did not expect Parrom to be available until at least Monday.
Parrom made his season debut with 12:12 left in the first half and played a total of six minutes.
N.C. State pulled within a point of the Wildcats at 35-34 early in the second half but Wise and Williams scored all 15 of Arizona's points during one stretch in which UA went ahead 50-46.
But a four-point play by Gonzalez, who drew Wise's fourth foul with 7:41 to go, capped an 8-0 run that gave the Wolfpack a 54-52 lead.
Horne put the Wildcats back on top with a three-pointer with 5:53 to go but Arizona didn't take the lead for good until Wise assisted Williams inside for a score that made it 63-61 with 2:36 left.
In the first half, after which Arizona led 31-23, Derrick Williams led the Wildcats with 10 points and three rebounds while Horne returned from his foot injury to collect nine points and three rebounds.
Arizona shot 44.4 percent overall while holding N.C. State to 37 percent.
The Wildcats scored seven straight points late in the first half to take a 23-15 lead, getting a layup from Horne, a top-of-the-key three-pointer from Alex Jacobson and a layup from Hill.
Wise picked up two fouls in the first three minutes, after which UA trailed 6-1, but stayed on the floor much of the half while Miller substituted frequently.
The Wildcats and Wolfpack stayed within a basket of each other throughout the middle of the first half. UA first tied the game on a layup from Wise with 14:57 to go in the first half and later went ahead 16-13 on two straight baskets from Williams.
One of the officials working the game was Karl Hess, the Atlantic Coast Conference ref who Miller said "has an individual problem with me" after Hess issued a technical foul against Miller in UA's loss to Vanderbilt in the Maui Invitational.