Nothing went right for #1-ranked Michigan State as they were beaten convincingly by North Carolina in the Breslin Center Wednesday night. The Spartans showed little energy and produced little success against an unpredictable North Carolina team that now has wins over Louisville and Michigan State to pair with losses against Belmont and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Carolina got out to a 14-point lead early and, other than the last 6 minutes of the first half, when MSU was able to tie it up, they were never really threatened.
As the four factors graph shows, neither the Tar Heels nor the Spartans did anything especially well. This was not the 2008-09 North Carolina team with 5 future NBA players, but they were good enough to physically dominate Michigan State in a game where they never trailed.
Carolina swept the four factors without posting any especially noteworthy numbers. In a fairly quick 74-possession game, MSU played badly, or at least worse than UNC, across the board. Most noteworthy is the Spartans' 41% eFG%, not the worst they've ever done but it was their worst shooting game this year and one of their 5 worst of the last 3 years. Combined with anemic numbers on the offensive glass and at the free-throw line this resulted in an efficiency mark of 0.88 points per possession, their worst mark since Louisville bounced them from the tournament two years ago.
At no time did Carolina look like one of the best teams in the country, but they were able to expose MSU's weak front court and lack of depth on the interior. Starters James Michael McAdoo and Joel James were only sporadically effective but Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson came off the bench to combine for 12-19 from the floor and 5-6 from the line. MSU did not have the depth to counter them. Alex Gauna started for an ill Matt Costello, picked up two fouls in one minute and never saw the court again. Gavin Schilling was only able to log a single minute and Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello did what they could.
MSU was definitely not playing at full strength in this one. Costello may be dealing with either mono or the flu, Gary Harris tweaked his problem ankle again, Adreian Payne had cramping issues in the second half that limited his effectiveness and Keith Appling took a bad fall going for a rebound late in the first half and missed some time because of it.
Adreian Payne: Payne was reasonably effective in the first half with 12 points and 4 boards but cramping issues limited him to 4 points in the second half. He played mostly on the perimeter and did little to check UNC's big men in the paint.
Gary Harris Harris shot 2-6 from 2 and 3-9 from 3 and was hampered by the bad ankle that kept him out of practice this week. UPDATE: Mike Wilson reports Harris is out indefinitely and will be held out of everything for a couple weeks.
Keith Appling: Appling logged 13 points on 15 shots but wasn't able to put the team on his back as he had in previous tight games. He had 3 of the Spartans 12 assists on 23 made shots, which illustrates how disjointed MSU's offense was.
Branden Dawson: Dawson struggled against a team featuring a lot of players similar to himself: athletic and opportunistic. He seemed to disappear on a night when his usual contributions (rebounds, defense and putbacks) were desperately needed.
In a bit of a surprise, Kenny Kaminski played 16 minutes, played solid defense, and didn't look overmatched. Any contributions like that from him will be very valuable going forward. In the end, though, you have to feel for Izzo, who fell to 0-7 against Roy Williams as the coach of UNC.
Tom Izzo is now 1-14 against Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. Sports are nonsensical and only distract us from the inevitability of death.
When you've made it clear that one of your primary goals for the program is to have them mentioned in the same discussions as Duke and North Carolina, this game has got to be a kick in the teeth. That being said, it's still just one non-conference game and the larger goals remain intact. MSU has 10 days to think about it before resuming against against Oakland on December 14th.