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(Friday, November 11th)
Final Score: (1) North Carolina 67, Michigan State 55
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - For the first college basketball game ever played aboard an aircraft carrier, the teams wore camouflage uniforms in honor of Veterans Day.
Eventually, there was no disguising which team was better.
Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and No. 1 North Carolina shook off a slow spell in the first half to beat Michigan State, 67-55, on Friday night in the inaugural Carrier Classic
The game was attended by President Barack Obama and played on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that buried Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden at sea in May.
John Henson had 12 points and Dexter Strickland added 10 for the Tar Heels (1-0), who used a 22-6 run at the end of the first half to take control of the game. They have won six straight over Michigan State.
Draymond Green scored 13 points with 18 rebounds to lead the Spartans (0-1), while Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne both had 10. Dawson remained in the game after twisting his knee on the half-court decal late in the first half.
Standing on a makeshift court built into the deck of the nuclear-powered carrier, President Obama gave a speech prior to the game, then watched it from courtside with the First Lady.
The crowd of more than 8,000 included military personnel who took in the game on a day celebrating their service.
"It's a hell of a memory-maker for all of us," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said during an interview with ESPN afterward.
Indeed, it seemed like everyone was in awe of the experience.
"I shook the president's hand. That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Henson. "It was so much more than a game this time."
The second half was nearly a wash -- North Carolina led by as many as 20, but outscored the Spartans 31-30 in the period -- making the Tar Heels' run at the end of the first half the game's biggest stretch.
North Carolina was hot, then cold in the first half -- then got hot again as it built a 36-25 lead.
The Tar Heels opened the game on a 6-0 run, then went more than four minutes without another point as Michigan State took the lead.
Strickland's bucket ended North Carolina's spell, cutting its deficit to 9-8, but that only interrupted a 15-2 surge by Michigan State capped by Payne's free throws.
"I think for the first 10 minutes we were all just taking it in like, 'Oh, wow, this is a nice experience,'" said Barnes.
It took the Tar Heels almost seven minutes to erase a seven-point deficit, which they did on a layup by Strickland and Henson's dunk to make it 21-19 with 5:05 remaining in the half.
That was part of a 22-6 run for North Carolina, which shot 50 percent in the opening 20 minutes. Michigan State shot just under 28 percent in the half, then made only a third of its 36 shots in the second.
North Carolina's biggest lead came on Barnes' three-point play to make it 59-39 with 10:42 remaining. The Spartans cut their deficit in half with 6:07 left, but Barnes nailed a three-pointer at the other end and the game was only that close one more time in the final minute.
The Tar Heels were a near unanimous No. 1 pick in the preseason Associated Press poll -- the eighth time they were awarded the top spot and first time since 2008-09, when they went on to capture the national championship.
Their season starts with one of the quickest two-day turnarounds in program history. They were flying cross-country overnight to North Carolina for their game Sunday at UNC Asheville.
The Tar Heels won the ACC regular-season title last year, but lost to Kentucky in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament...The Spartans lost their first game of the NCAA Tournament to UCLA after being knocked out of the Big Ten tourney semifinals by Penn State...North Carolina leads the all-time series 11-3...The Tar Heels are 90-12 in season openers, including seven wins in a row...The Spartans are 90-23 in openers, losing just two of their last 35.
11/12 00:11:49 ET
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