Talk about proving the critics wrong.
Josh Howard scored 27, including six free throws in the final 1.7 seconds, as No. 9 Wake Forest held off North Carolina State 78-72 Saturday to win its first outright Atlantic Coast Conference title since 1962.
The Demon Deacons (23-4, 13-3) were picked to finish sixth in the ACC but set a school record for league wins, closing out conference play winning 11 of 12.
"It was motivation," Howard said of the preseason poll. "How could people say that about us? I still have it above my door so I see it every time I come into my room. I'm going to keep it up there until we lose again. Hopefully, we won't."
Howard helped carry coach Skip Prosser into the locker room showers after the win. Prosser improved to 44-17 in his two seasons in Winston-Salem since coming from Xavier.
"We talked a lot at halftime that no matter what happened, we were not going to go down with the bat on our shoulders," Prosser said. "We were going to go down cutting. In the second half we were in there swinging and being an aggressive basketball team."
Howard was clutch again, shooting 8-of-10 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line for his 15th game of 20 or more points.
"He's just our Superman," point guard Taron Downey said. "I can't even say anything else about him. He's shown it time after time. I hope he doesn't stop now because we've got the ACC tournament and the NCAAs."
"You can see why he's a national player of the year candidate," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said of Howard. "We really didn't have an adequate response for him today. He did today what he's done all season for Wake Forest."
Howard's tiebreaking free throws came after he grabbed a missed shot by Justin Gray and went back up as the shot clock buzzer went off.
After reviewing television replays, official Larry Rose ruled that the foul by Clifford Crawford came before the shot clock expired and awarded Howard the free throws over the protests of N.C. State.
NO. 11 XAVIER 96, TEMPLE 65: Romain Sato scored 29 and Lionel Chalmers and David West, whose jersey number was retired before his last home game, each had 17 for the Musketeers (24-4, 15-1 Atlantic 10).
Xavier tied a school record set in 1987-88 with its 15th consecutive win. Alex Wesby had 24 points and David Hawkins added 20 for the Owls (13-14, 10-6), who had won six in a row.
Temple assistant coach Nate Blackwell was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
NO. 15 LOUISVILLE 100, CHARLOTTE 59: Luke Whitehead had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Reece Gaines scored 13 in his final regular-season home game for the Cardinals.
Kendall Dartez added a career-high 16 points for Louisville (21-6, 11-5 Conference USA), which played without senior center Marvin Stone, its second-leading scorer and rebounder.
Demon Brown scored 12 for the 49ers (13-15, 8-8), who lost for the third time in eight games and suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season.
Louisville officials benched the 6-foot-10 Stone for the second time in three games as the NCAA continued looking into his amateur status.