Tar Heels upend top-ranked Spartans
East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - There will be a new No. 1 team in college basketball next week.
The unpredictable North Carolina Tar Heels used a balanced scoring attack in front of a hostile Breslin Center crowd to knock off the top-ranked Michigan State Spartans, 79-65, in the marquee showdown of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Kennedy Meeks led five North Carolina players in double figures with 15 points while J.P. Tokoto added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels (5-2), who never trailed en route to an NCAA-best 13th win over No. 1 ranked teams.
Brice Johnson added 14 points and Marcus Paige and Nate Britt netted 13 apiece in the surprising upset.
The Spartans (7-1) shot just 36 percent from the floor and saw their 35-game home winning streak against unranked opponents come to a sudden halt.
"One of the more disappointing performances of my career here," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. "From the jump ball, they kind of took it to us."
Gary Harris had a team-high 17 points, Adreian Payne went for 16 and Keith Appling added 13 for Michigan State, which has dropped seven straight meetings against North Carolina.
It's been a strange two weeks for the Tar Heels, as they upended then third- ranked Louisville on Nov. 24 before losing to unheralded UAB on Sunday.
The setback against the Blazers was apparently a wake up call, as North Carolina looked like the best team on the floor for all 40 minutes Wednesday.
The Tar Heels jumped on top, 20-6, nine minutes in thanks to 10 second-chance points and six forced turnovers.
"We were active, disciplined on the offensive end, active on the boards and we were aware of what was going on on offense," UNC head coach Roy Williams said.
Michigan State was mired in a 2-for-11 slump and watched in silence when Appling fell hard on his back/hip late in the half.
With Appling on the sideline, the Spartans unexpectedly made a comeback as they ended the half on a 13-2 run, tying things at 32-32 on a Payne 3-pointer.
Appling was back on the floor in the second half, but Payne appeared to suffer from cramps, twice falling to the floor before taking himself out of the game.
The Tar Heels took advantage.
Johnson broke a 49-49 tie with a pair of buckets, and Michigan State went more than six minutes without making a field goal.
North Carolina's subsequent 12-1 flurry pushed the margin to 65-52 following a Meeks bucket in transition with six minutes remaining, and the closest the Spartans got from there was eight.
The ACC and Big Ten each had six wins in the Challenge for the second straight year ... Michigan State had also won 22 straight home games against non- conference opponents ... The Spartans' last victory against the Tar Heels came on Nov. 29, 2000 ... Michigan State came in leading the nation with 22 assists per game but only had 12 on 23 made field goals ... North Carolina held a 49-38 rebounding advantage and scored 16 more points in the paint (44-28).
12/05 01:00:50 ET