ACC-Big Ten Challenge: UNC 98, Michigan State 63
By Larry Lage
DETROIT ó North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked out of a news conference smiling after an impressive performance at the site of the 2009 Final Four.
“See you in April,” someone said.
“I’ll be back and I hope my team is with me,” Williams replied.
The way the top-ranked Tar Heels played in a 98-63 rout of No. 13 Michigan State, they seem destined for a return trip to Ford Field.
Tyler Hansbrough scored the first basket of both halves and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, Wayne Ellington scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half and Ty Lawson had 17 points, eight assists and seven steals.
The Tar Heels (8-0) won their first seven games by an average of 30 points and surpassed that clip. They took control with an 11-3 run late in the first half, led by 14 at halftime, then built a 30-plus cushion before coasting.
The Spartans (4-2) started the season ranked sixth, but lost a lot of luster with an 18-point loss to Maryland last week and looked helpless in their fourth game in a week.
“The blame goes on me for the scheduling,” coach Tom Izzo said. “We were dead.”
Michigan State scored in the final seconds, narrowly avoiding the most-lopsided defeat of Izzo’s career. Iowa beat Michigan State by 36 in 1996 during Izzo’s first season.
“You didn’t see our real team tonight, but our real team might have lost by 20,” Izzo said. “They’re definitely one of the best teams I’ve seen in my 25 years at Michigan State.”
Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen looked like they belonged on the same court with the Tar Heels, scoring 21 and 16 points respectively, but the rest of their teammates appeared overmatched.
North Carolina ó the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll ó was simply too talented, quick, strong and deep.
The Tar Heels didn’t play any of their starters 30 minutes, showing mercy in a game that could’ve been more of a blowout.
“We got embarrassed,” said Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas, who was 2-of-10 for six points.
The NFL venue was configured for about 70,000 seats and perhaps one-third of them were filled with fans, creating a scene that was as lackluster as the game. The announced attendance was 25,267.
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and one of his key players, former Tar Heel Rasheed Wallace, were among the faces in the crowd.
Hansbrough played for just the fourth time in eight games, but the national player of the year looked sharp in 27 minutes.
“I knew he was going to play,” Lawson said. “He’s never going to sit out of a big game.”
The 6-foot-9 forward missed the Tar Heels’ first two games with a stress reaction in his right shin, didn’t play against Chaminade in the Maui Invitation and sat out Sunday’s game against UNC-Asheville for precautionary reasons.
Those are the only games the senior has missed in his career.
“The problem we’ve been concerned the last two games has been his ankle, not his shin,” Williams said. “That’s been the factor in playing him or not playing him.”
Hansbrough and the Tar Heels are now off until Dec. 13, when they host Oral Roberts
“I’m thankful we have a big break,” he said. “I can take time off.”
Michigan State was without its top frontcourt player, Goran Suton, and will miss him for at least two more weeks because he’s scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his sprained left knee Thursday.
“It’s been a nightmare for us,” Izzo said.
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