RALEIGH, N.C. -- 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. 1 ARIZONA 88, OREGON 80: Jason Gardner, in his final home game, scored a season-high 27, 21 in the second half, and the Wildcats pulled away.
Arizona (25-2, 17-1 Pac-10) trailed much of the game but took control with a 17-2 run that put it up 66-56 with 6:39 to play on Salim Stoudamire's 16-footer.
Stoudamire, benched in the second half against Oregon State on Thursday night because coach Lute Olson didn't like his attitude, had 19 points, 17 in the second half.
Stoudamire's consecutive 3-pointers put Arizona ahead 72-60 with 5:35 to go. Channing Frye scored 13, six in the decisive run.
Luke Ridnour had 26 points and seven assists for the Ducks (20-9, 10-8), who were swept on their Arizona trip.
NO. 8 MARQUETTE 70, UC 61: Dwyane Wade scored 26 in what likely was his final home as the Golden Eagles earned their first Conference USA crown.
Wade, a junior, is expected to be an NBA lottery pick. He had 10 rebounds, including four in a row in the closing minutes to help Marquette (23-4, 14-2) become the first team other than the Bearcats (17-10, 9-7) to win the regular-season title outright in C-USA's eight seasons.
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.
NO. 16 NOTRE DAME 86, G'TOWN 80: Chris Thomas had 29 points and seven rebounds, overcoming a season-high 10 turnovers to help the visiting Irish snap a three-game losing streak.
Thomas was 9-of-16 from the field, including 3-of-8 from 3-point range, and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, including four after the Hoyas pulled within 82-80 on Tony Bethel's free throw with 20 seconds left.
Notre Dame (22-8, 10-6 Big East) completed its best regular season since 1988-89 with its fourth straight win over Georgetown (14-13, 6-10).
NO. 17 STANFORD 72, NO. 22 CAL 60: Josh Childress had 15 points and 10 rebounds and the host Cardinal held Joe Shipp, the Pac-10's leading scorer, to 14 points as Stanford clinched the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
The Cardinal (23-7, 14-4) let almost the entire game, but the Bears (20-7, 13-5) pulled within 52-48 on Brian Wethers' 3-pointer with 8:24 left. Stanford then scored 10 in a row to put it out of reach.
Wethers led California with 16 points but shot 5-of-17.
NO. 18 MEMPHIS 90, UAB 79: Chris Massie had 27 points and 11 rebounds and Antonio Burks had 11 points and 12 assists as the visiting Tigers closed the regular season with their 11th straight win.
Memphis (22-5, 13-3 C-USA) will be the No. 2 seed in this week's tournament at Louisville. Demario Eddins led the Blazers (16-11, 8-8) with 18 points.
NO. 19 CREIGHTON 57, INDIANA ST. 56: Kyle Korver had 15 points and nine rebounds and the host Bluejays held off the heavy underdog in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals.
Second-seeded Creighton (27-4) went scoreless over the final 4:52. The only scoring down the stretch came on four free throws by the Sycamores (7-24).
NO. 20 OKLA. ST. 77, TEXAS A&M 52: Ivan McFarlin had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the host Cowboys, who clinched the No. 4 seed and a bye in this week's Big 12 tournament.
Oklahoma State (21-8, 10-6) ended its longest losing streak since dropping three straight in 1999 by smothering the Aggies (14-13, 6-10) on both ends of the court.
NO. 21 DAYTON 2, ST. B'VENTURE 0: The Flyers (21-5, 13-2 A-10) were credited with the victory when the Bonnies (7-21, 1-14) forfeited their final two games.
NO. 23 MISS. ST. 67, AUBURN 45: Derrick Zimmerman had 15 points and eight assists in his final home game for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State (19-8, 9-7 SEC) won the West Division for the first time since 1995-96 and earned a bye in this week's conference tournament. The Tigers (19-10, 8-8) lost five of their last seven and tied for second in the division with surging LSU.