East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Michigan State Spartans and North Carolina Tar Heels will square off in a marquee matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Breslin Center on Wednesday evening.
Tom Izzo's Spartans are certainly off to a fast start, having won all seven games on the docket thus far and ascending the national polls. The team returned from capturing the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn and moved to 7-0 with last Friday's 98-65 rout of Mount St. Mary's. Michigan State is just 6-7 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge all-time, with this marking the fifth time these two teams have met in the event.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels have suffered from a Jekyll and Hyde identity crisis early on. The team is still at less than full strength with both P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald still unable to suit up, but UNC has a great win over defending national champion Louisville on its resume. However, the Tar Heels have also lost games to Belmont and most recently, UAB (63-59) to fall to 4-2 on the year.
North Carolina owns an 11-3 series advantage over Michigan State and has won the last six meeting. The team's have split the four previous matchups in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Just one week after racking up 93 points against Louisville, UNC suffered its worst scoring output of the season in a four-point loss to the Blazers. The Tar Heels shot just .429 from the floor against UAB and really struggled from long range, converting just 1-of-12 attempts from behind the arc. J.P. Tokoto led the team with 16 points in the loss, while Marcus Paige, coming off a career-performance against Louisville, finished with 13 points. James Michael McAdoo really had a tough time getting into a rhythm, hitting just 3-of-13 shots from the floor to add a mere six points in 34 minutes of action.
The Tar Heels have been far better offensively on the season, coming into this contest averaging 76.7 ppg on a healthy .483 shooting. Despite his modes numbers against UAB, Paige has been an offensive force overall, shooting 50 percent from the floor overall, over 44 percent from behind the arc and leading the team in both scoring (20.8 ppg) and assists (3.9 apg). McAdoo is a distant second in the scoring column at 13.8 ppg, followed closely by Brice Johnson's 13.5 ppg off the bench.
The Spartans have gotten the job done at both ends of the floor this season and are enjoying a +19.0 scoring margin as a result. Michigan State ranks among the nation's best in scoring (85.9 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.506). The scoring depth is apparent with four of the five current starters averaging double figures. Guard Gary Harris tops the team at a healthy 17.7 ppg. Keith Appling gives the team another strong backcourt option at 16.9 ppg. Adreian Payne is next in line 15.9 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Branden Dawson (10.3 ppg), adds yet another dimension with his ability to score and rebound (team- high 9.7 rpg).
A 9-2 run to close out the first half and a 10-0 run to start the second provided Michigan State with enough room to cruise to victory over Mount St. Mary's last time out. MSU shot over 60 percent from the floor in both halves and finished the game at 63.1 percent efficiency. Appling led the way, hitting 8-of-11 shots from the floor to tally 17 points. Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine added 15 points apiece for Michigan State, which rested Harris, who has been bothered by an ankle injury suffered before the start of the season.