UNC shocks basketball world with easy win at No. 1 Michigan State
Seemingly the most unpredictable team in the country put together another stunning performance Wednesday night.
Playing No. 1 Michigan State at the Breslin Center, the unranked Tar Heels never trailed, outrebounded the tough-minded Spartans by 11 and used a late second-half run to pull away for a 79-65 victory.
It was the first win over a No. 1 team for UNC since it beat Duke in March 2006, and it gave the Tar Heels a nation’s best 13 wins in 30 tries against the AP’s top-ranked team. It was the Tar Heels first win as an unranked team against a No. 1 team since beating Oklahoma in 1990.
The win came 10 days after UNC (5-2) knocked off defending champion and third-ranked Louisville in Uncasville, Conn., giving the Tar Heels two top 5 wins for the first time in the Roy Williams era.
This was the same team lost its first non-conference home game in eight years to Belmont and showed a surprising lack of effort in a loss at Alabama-Birmingham on Sunday, causing UNC to fall out of the rankings.
“We’re as happy as we can possibly be,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “We’re 179 degrees away from where we were after the UAB game. … UAB wanted it so much more than we did, and today Michigan St did not want it more than we did.”
Freshman center Kennedy Meeks scored 15 points in 18 minutes to lead a balanced scoring attack that saw five players record double-figures and sophomore J.P. Tokoto had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Brice Johnson added 14 points and six rebounds and freshman Nate Britt (13 points) had his first 10-point game as the Tar Heels overcame tough shooting nights from their top two scorers. Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo combined to go 7 of 25 from the field, though Paige did have a game-high five assists.
The game was tied 32-32 at halftime and 49-49 with 11 minutes left before the Tar Heels took control with a 16-3 run.
Tokoto scored six straight points, on a putback and two fast-break baskets, and Paige made a 3 during the run. Meeks then scored in the post to give the Tar Heels a 65-52 lead with 6:02 remaining UNC wouldn’t make another field goal until a Meeks putback with nine seconds left, but made enough free throws to ensure the Spartans would never get closer than eight the rest of the way.
McAdoo’s block on a dunk attempt by Kenny Kaminski with 30 seconds left sent the remaining Michigan State fans to the exits.
Williams improved to 7-0 against Michigan State since coming to UNC, including a win in the 2009 NCAA title game. But this was the first time Williams didn’t enter the matchup with UNC ranked in the top 10, and it was also the first meeting at the Breslin Center, where Michigan State had won 73 of its last 74 non-conference games and 74 straight against unranked non-conference opponents.
Despite the disparity in rankings and a fired-up home crowd, the Spartans (7-1) had as many turnovers as points in the first six minutes (four) and missed 6 of their first 7 shots, allowing UNC to jump out to a 16-4 lead. The Tar Heels led by many as 14 with 11:17 remaining on a jumper by Brice Johnson, but Michigan State steadily climbed back.
UNC didn’t score for the final five minutes of the half and the Spartans eventually tied the game on a 3-pointer by Adreian Payne with 1:39 left.
“I told them the same thing at halftime today than I said against Louisville,” Williams said. “We were tied both times and I said we didn’t play great, and we can play a heckuva lot better in the second half.”
UNC shot 51.7 percent in the second half while Michigan State shot just 31.3 percent. After getting outrebounded by 15 against UAB, the Tar Heels controlled the rebounding battle against the Spartans.
“Since UAB I didn’t know if it was sun up or sun down, daylight or dark,” Williams said. “I just knew that I was not happy. And when coach is not happy, there’s lot of people who suffer.”
Williams said he made the team watch tape of UAB through Tuesday night, finally getting around to preparing for Michigan State on Wednesday morning. By the end of the day, it was UNC’s opponent who would be suffering.
“Probably one of the most disappointing performances in my career here, to be honest with you,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “From the opening tip, they took it to us.”
NOTES — The win gave the ACC a short-lived 6-5 lead in the 12-game ACC/Big Ten Challenge that evaporated into the leagues’ second straight 6-6 tie when Miami fell at Nebraska in the final game of the series Wednesday night.
The ACC leads the all-time series against the Big Ten 10-3-2 but hasn’t won since the 2008 Challenge. The ACC won the first 10, the Big Ten the next three from 2009-11 and the last two have been ties.
NORTH CAROLINA 79, No. 1 MICHIGAN ST. 65
Percentages: FG .446, FT .704.
3-Point Goals: 2-11, .182 (Paige 2-9, Britt 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 4.
Blocked Shots: 5 (Johnson 2, Meeks, Tokoto, McAdoo).
Turnovers: 13 (Tokoto 4, Johnson 2, Britt 2, James, McAdoo, Hubert, Paige).
Steals: 7 (McAdoo 2, Paige 2, Hicks, Britt, James).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .359, FT .667.
3-Point Goals: 7-24, .292 (Harris 3-9, Payne 2-4, Appling 2-6, Kaminski 0-1, Valentine 0-2, Trice 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 7 (Costello 4, Valentine, Payne, Gauna).
Turnovers: 14 (Harris 3, Valentine 2, Dawson 2, Payne 2, Kaminski, Schilling, Gauna, Appling, Trice).
Steals: 6 (Trice 5, Valentine).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Terry Wymer, Lamont Simpson, Pat Driscoll.