Injured Spartans fall to North Carolina

Top-ranked Spartans play "uncharacteristically soft" in loss to Tar Heels.

Michigan State's undefeated opening to the season came to an end Wednesday and it came against an old foe in fitting fashion.

North Carolina came into Breslin Center and outmuscled the top-ranked Spartans in its 79-65 win.

"Well, probably one of the more disappointing performances during my career here to be honest with you," coach Tom Izzo said. "I just thought from the opening jump ball they kind of took it to us. And I mentioned that we haven't been practice real well and that led to not playing very well, and I can't think of a time where I've been more disappointed in maybe myself, I mean, it's my job.

"We looked like a softer team. That solely falls on me, nobody else."

North Carolina outrebounded the Spartans 49-38 and outscored the Spartans 44-28 in the post.

"We are a better team we just played like crap," center Matt Costello said. "It was no energy and guys walking up and down the court – not even the fact that we shot whatever we shot from the field. It was all energy."

Costello didn't start because of the flu, but Izzo said after the game it could be mono. Izzo also said Adreian Payne struggled with cramping throughout the game and was fighting through the plantar fasciitis he has been battling.

That wasn't it for the Spartans in struggling with the health department.

Gary Harris, who led the Spartans with 17 points, looked hindered at times by an ankle injury he has been resting recently.

Keith Appling left the game in the first half after landing on his hip, but returned after a brief trip to the locker room.

Appling said to look at those injuries would be nothing but an excuse, despite the team being pretty banged up.

"At the end of the day, we play Spartan basketball and you're going to get hurt," he said. "You're going to have to fight through certain injuries.

The Spartans fell behind early 20-6 as the Tar Heels came out hot early, but the Spartans fought back to go into halftime tied 32-32 after a 13-2 run led by Adreian Payne.

The second half opened back and forth and the teams were tied three more times, but the Spartans never took the lead.

"That sucks because you fight and you fight to get it to that point and then they score three buckets in a row and take a six-point lead," point guard Travis Trice said. "That wears on you throughout a game when you're constantly fighting to get back to even and they just jump up again."

Appling hit a 3-pointer with 12:11 to go in the game to tie the game 49-49, but the Tar Heels went on a 16-5 run and broke the game open as the Spartans didn't hit another field goal for more than six minutes.

"We kind of let the fans down," Harris said. "We let ourselves down. We could have played better especially since we took a loss at home that doesn't happen too often."

Harris said how the Spartans handle the coming days will show they really are.

"It's either we are going to bounce back or we are going to keep on falling," h said. "It's going to test what kind of character we really are."

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