Tar Heels Hold Off Michigan St. In Rematch
Dec. 1, 2009
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -New season, different lineups, same result.
Ed Davis scored a career-high 22 points Tuesday night to help No. 10 North Carolina beat No. 9 Michigan State 89-82 in a rematch of last season's national championship game won by the Tar Heels.
Larry Drew II had a career-best with 18 points for the Tar Heels (7-1), who led most of the game before having to hold off a rally in the final minutes. North Carolina shot 58 percent and led by as many as 19 points early in the second half, beating Michigan State (5-2) for the second straight year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Raymar Morgan scored 18 points to lead the Spartans, who shot 43 percent but were 2 of 20 from 3-point range. Kalin Lucas added 15 points and helped the Spartans get as close as six points late before the Tar Heels hit enough free throws to hold on.
The teams met twice last season at Detroit's Ford Field, with North Carolina beating Michigan State by 35 points in the early season Challenge. Then came the 89-72 win in April for the program's fifth NCAA championship, a game in which North Carolina led by 24 points in the first half. It was a performance that put a damper on the Spartans' thrilling tournament run that had galvanized the economically battered state of Michigan.
Coach Tom Izzo had said he didn't plan to use last season as motivation, though some of his players admitted they were eager for another shot at the Tar Heels. And as if the Spartans needed any reminders of what happened in April, the blue-clad students near the home bench greeted them for pregame warmups with chants of "Banner! Banner!" while pointing to the one hanging in the Smith Center rafters to commemorate last season's title.
Yet North Carolina, not Michigan State, came out looking the one playing for some sort of revenge.
The Tar Heels scored on their first five possessions, then got a run of nine straight points from freshmen to take a 30-21 lead on a driving basket from Dexter Strickland. A few minutes later, the Tar Heels - doing their best impression of last season's high-scoring squad - closed the half with a 10-2 run that ended with another impressive basket from Strickland.
This time, the freshman grabbed a loose rebound, raced up court and launched a pull-up 3-pointer over a backpedaling Korie Lucious just before the halftime horn. The ball swished cleanly through the net, sending the Tar Heels sprinting to the locker room with a 50-34 lead and a packed house screaming with delight.
It marked the third straight time the Tar Heels had scored at least 50 points in a half against the Spartans. And once Marcus Ginyard buried a 3-pointer on the first possession of the second half, North Carolina had nearly duplicated the 55-34 title-game lead it carried into the locker room at halftime.
That forced the Spartans back into a familiar role: trying to claw back against the Tar Heels in a game that had gotten away from them. This time, at least, the Spartans made it interesting, inching back and getting as close as six points five times in the final 2 minutes.