Tom Izzo was somber after his team's first setback of the season.
J.P. Tokoto had 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds to help North Carolina beat top-ranked Michigan State 79-65 Wednesday night, giving the Tar Heels another impressive victory in their inconsistent season.
"One of the more disappointing performances of my career here," Izzo said. "From the jump ball, they kind of took it to us."
The Tar Heels were in control from the start, never trailed and used a 12-1 run to take a 65-52 lead with 6:02 left.
"Michigan State did not want it that much more than we did," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
Izzo said he agreed "100 percent" with that assessment.
"We looked soft," the hard-nosed coach lamented.
North Carolina outrebounded the Spartans by 11, leading to 19 second-chance points. The Tar Heels turned 14 of Michigan State's turnovers into 19 points and held the Spartans to 36 percent shooting.
"We deserved to get beat," guard Gary Harris said. "They outplayed us in every aspect."
North Carolina (5-2) has been talented enough to defeat No. 1 Michigan State and then-No. 3 Louisville this season, but it has also lost to Belmont and UAB.
Michigan State (7-1) fell to an unranked nonconference team at home for the first time in more than a decade. The Spartans looked nothing like the team that beat then-No. 1 Kentucky a few weeks ago or the program that has had so much success for nearly two decades under Izzo.
"There are times we are the No. 1 team in the nation," center Matt Costello said. "When we focus in and play the way we did the first 4 minutes against Kentucky, there's not a team in the world that can beat us. But we don't play that way all the time. We play that way about 25 percent of the time."
Harris had 17 points and Keith Appling scored 13, but both missed 10 of 15 shots. Adreian Payne had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spartans, whose last loss at home to an unranked nonconference team came against Toledo on Dec. 30, 2002.
"This is the definition of a team coming in and punching us right in the face," Appling said. "When you're the No. 1 team in the country, you're going to get everyone's best shot. They hit us with their best shot early, and we didn't respond."
Michigan State pulled into a 32-all tie at halftime after an awful start, struggling to take care of the ball or make shots.
The Tar Heels scored the first six points of the game and led 16-4 while holding the Spartans to 1-of-7 shooting with four turnovers.
"They came out and hit us in the mouth first," Harris said. "We never even got the lead. They came in with a lot of energy and got the win."
On the bench, North Carolina freshman Isaiah Hicks implored his teammates to keep playing and avoid looking at the scoreboard. The Tar Heels seemed to do that, building a 20-6 cushion midway through the first half as Michigan State missed nine of 11 shots and turned the ball over six times.
The Spartans got a scare later in the half when Appling landed hard on his right hip after defending a shot. He hobbled off the court, but was able to return to action before halftime.
Michigan State outscored the Tar Heels 13-2 over the last several minutes of the first half.
The Spartans, though, couldn't do enough to get ahead in the second half and they will likely fall in next week's poll after being No. 1 for a school-record three weeks this season.
"They came off a loss and they looked hungrier," Izzo said. "We came off all the hype and we looked not as hungry."
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