North Carolina Upsets No. 1 Michigan State

by Bill DiFilippo / @bflip33

It’s weird to say that a team with the history and tradition of North Carolina upset anyone, but on Wednesday night in East Lansing, the unranked Tar Heels took down the No. 1 team in the country, Michigan State, 79-65.

The game was one of the night’s marquee contests in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and was the second time in three games that North Carolina took down a top-three team, as Roy Williams & Co. beat then-third ranked Louisville last Sunday.

UNC got major contributions from its bench, as Kennedy Meeks and Bryce Johnson combined to score 29 points and grab 13 rebounds. The Tar Heels also had major contributions from Marcus Paige (13 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), Nate Britt (13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), and JP Tokoto (12 points, 10 rebounds).

As for the Spartans, their 1-2 punch of Adreian Payne and Gary Harris had their usual big games, with Payne going for 16 points and 8 rebounds while Harris had 17 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. However, those two, along with Keith Appling (13 points), were the only Spartan players to register double-digit scoring.

North Carolina came out hot, and led the Spartans by as many as 12 points during the first half. While Michigan State was able to fight back, the Spartans were unable to take the lead from the Tar Heels, and UNC was able to knock off the No. 1 team in America with a wire-to-wire victory.

From The Daily Tar Heel:

“It’s amazing,” said forward Brice Johnson, who finished with 14 points. “It’s the best feeling, knowing that you can silence the crowd when they’re so hyped up, knowing you’re the underdog.”

Coach Roy Williams, who now holds a 7-1 record against Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, talked to reporters after the game, smiling and refraining, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

“We’re as happy as we can possibly be,” he said. “We’re 179 degrees away from where we were at the UAB game.”

The win was the latest in what has been a strange season for North Carolina: despite beating two top-three squads, the Tar Heels have lost games to Belmont and UAB this season.