ACC Basketball: A game to remember for Tar Heels
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2011
By Bernie Wilson
CORONADO, Calif. ó It was hard to beat the Carrier Classic, even for the team that got beat.
With President Barack Obama watching from courtside, No. 1 North Carolina beat Michigan State 67-55 on Friday night on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and John Henson had 12 points and a career-high nine blocked shots as the Tar Heels put their size advantage to good use.
But there was no dejection in the Michigan State locker room after the game, which was conceived by Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis as a way to honor veterans.
ěItís a loss but at the end of the day itís a win because of what we did,î Draymond Green said
Obama watched intently, chatted with wife Michelle and service members seated near him, and at one point appeared to check his BlackBerry. When the game ended, he applauded and then shook hands with coaches Roy Williams and Tom Izzo.
ěHe said, ëGood luck.í I told him, ëGood luck.í Heís got some pretty important things coming up in the next year, also,î said Williams, the Tar Heelsí coach.
Williams said it was nice that there wasnít a crisis that kept Obama away.
ěI like a president who loves sports, loves athletics, loves college basketball,î Williams said. ěDonít take this wrong and Iím not being disrespectful, but heís a basketball junkie.î
Said Izzo: ěI thanked him. He thanked us. Weíre all trying to thank somebody. That damn military starts thanking you, and itís killing me because they do so much for us and theyíre thanking us. Theyíre the most humble group Iíve ever met.
ěWe played the No. 1 team in the country and in front of the No. 1 team in the world,î the Michigan State coach added.
Both coaches said the Carrier Classic worked.
ěI absolutely loved it,î Williams said. ěWe had some scary moments. We were worried about the weather for the last week, but it worked and I thought it was great.î
Izzo said he ěabsolutely loved it. The military was so good on this whole deal, from when we got here to when weíre leaving. I thought it was awesome.î
The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Ladenís burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama.
Fitting with the Veterans Day theme, the Tar Heels and Spartans had U.S.A. rather than their names on the back of their jerseys, which had a camouflage design. At dusk, the game was paused for the lowering of the American flag. When the game ended, the players gave their jerseys to servicemen.
In a nod to the troops, Williams and his staff wore combat boots and cargo pants.
The Carrier Classic featured slam dunks and fast breaks on a court plopped down where jet fighters normally scream into flight.
ěIt took a while, but at some point you didnít even realize you were outside until the play slowed down,î Henson said. ěIt was fun. My excuse was sometimes I felt like the boat moved a little bit when I shot,î Henson joked. ěThatís why I missed.î
This game turned out as have recent matchups between the schools. North Carolina has beaten Michigan State six straight times, including in the 2009 national championship game.
This time, it didnít matter who won, Green said it was great getting to play in front of the president.
ěThat was phenomenal,î he said. ěItís not every day anyone gets to do that.î