Jay Bilas mentioned on ESPN Wednesday night at Michigan State the word “fight.” North Carolina certainly had it from the opening tip. Michigan State however, refused to answer the bell and it showed.
J.P. Tokoto had a double-double (12 points to go with 10 rebounds), while Kennedy Meeks scored 15 points and Brice Johnson chipped in another 14 off the bench. Marcus Paige and Nate Britt added 13 apiece in the stunning 79-65 upset. Michigan State’s last home loss to a non-conference team was more than a decade ago, (when Jennifer Garner was all the rage on Alias) as Toledo won on December 30, 2002.
The Tar Heels ran off to a 20-6 lead but the Spartans chipped away before the half, scoring 13 of the final 15 points. But the 32 all tie was the closest Tom Izzo’s bunch could get, as Roy Williams has beaten Gang Green seven straight times, including the runaway 2009 NCAA Championship game in nearby Detroit.
Rebounding also was a key factor in the Tar Heels’ resurgence, as UNC banged the glass 45 times and outdistanced the Spartans in that department by 9. Keith Appling nearly had a serious injury in the first half, but somehow returned to the action but was not the same flashy player Big Ten fans have been accustomed to seeing. His stat line read a meager 5 of 15 from the field and 1 of 2 from the charity stripe for a total of 13 points.
The Spartans also became their worst enemy, shooting only 36 percent for the game. Even more puzzling, the Tar Heels did all of this with mostly freshmen and sophomores, as P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald continue to await rulings from the NCAA as far as their lack of academic eligibility requirements are concerned. This after Duke steamrolled Michigan on Tuesday night, this proved the ACC is still the conference to beat.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday night…
Ohio State easily beat up on Maryland (Big Ten preview for 2015) 76-60, while Wisconsin beat Virginia on the road in a football type score of 48-38. Both teams only scored a total of 41 points in the second half–go figure.
Nebraska and Purdue had easy wins, but Northwestern stumbled at North Carolina State.
Therefore, for the second time in three years–the Challenge ends in a tie, 6 wins each.
Other key games around the country:
Dayton continues to impress, and so does Larry Brown and SMU–overcoming a poor shooting start on the road at Illinois-Chicago to win going away at the free throw line.
The first big Saturday in college hoops is upon us, so I hope to keep track as best as I can.
Hope to see you then. In the meantime, please try to stay warm!