Michigan State suffered its first loss of the 2013-14 season Wednesday night at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels 79-65.
The Spartans were dominated from the start getting out rebounded once again, this time 49-38.
The Tar Heels led by as much as 12 in the first half before the Spartans went on a 20-8 run to close the half and tie the game at 32.
The Spartans kept it close for the first 10 minutes of the second half, closing the gap to 53-51, but a 12-1 run by North Carolina helped them pull away for good.
Matt Costello did not start due to illness and was limited during the game so Michigan State relied heavily on true freshman Gavin Schilling and redshirt junior Alex Gauna.
Gauna picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and did not see the floor the rest of the night.
Despite his illness, Costello played 17 minutes, scored six points and recorded four blocks and rebounds. Costello had a series of plays with under four minutes left in the first half that sparked the Spartans and helped them pull even at halftime.
On the offensive end, Costello had a nice pass inside to Adreian Payne for an impressive dunk. Next time down the court, North Carolina forgot to guard Costello leading to an emphatic two-handed slam from the big man. On the Tar Heels next possession, Costello sent a James Michael McAdoo layup into the Izzone.
“He played as hard as anybody on our team,” coach Tom Izzo said of Costello. “I give him a lot of credit.”
MSU was hobbled during the game, losing Keith Appling for some of the first half with a hip injury and Payne due to cramping.
Gary Harris led the Spartans with 17 points but shot only 33 percent from the field. Michigan State as a team shot just under 36 percent for the game.
North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams improved to a perfect 7-0 against the Spartans since he began his tenure with the Tar Heels.
“We’re as happy as we can be” Williams said, “We were really good tonight.”
When asked about his success against Izzo, Williams said, “My players have played better on game day than his players.”
Izzo thought his team looked “soft,” a sentiment that Williams echoed in his postgame press conference.
“Today Michigan State did not want it that much more than we did,” Williams said.
“From the opening jump ball they took it to us,” Izzo said. “I can’t think of a time I’ve been more disappointed.”
Now the Spartans get to fix the flaws that have been clear all season but haven’t hurt the team before Wednesday. They need more production on the glass from Costello and hopefully this game will be the spark for him.
If the Spartans want to be a great team, they will need to figure out how to defend the paint against taller, stronger teams.
Branden Dawson was quiet all game long against the Tar Heels, playing 17 minutes and scoring two points, while collecting three rebounds and committing two turnovers. North Carolina’s big men eliminated Dawson’s usual effectiveness on the offensive and defensive glass.
The Spartans’ next game is Dec. 14 at Oakland University.
-In the second half, only 12 of UNC’s 29 shots came outside of the paint.
Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever