Michigan State Spartans Get Beat By The North Carolina Tar Heels in the 1st Carrier Classic, but on This Night NO ONE Lost!

Bill Marklevits

SAN DIEGO – There were no losers in a game meant to honor the veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day.  The basketball teams from Michigan State and North Carolina did that in a new and unique way in the first ever NCAA basketball game played on a US Navy aircraft carrier. 

In front of a crowd of 8,111 which were predominantly veterans and active duty military, as well as their Commander in Chief Barack Obama the #1 ranked North Carolina Tarheels behind 17 pts from Harrison Barnes edged Michigan State 67-55.

Tom Izzo said “when the crowd started chanting ‘USA – USA – USA’ as the game clock wound down that was really cool and something we will remember for the rest of our lives!.” 

Draymond Green also mentioned that was a highlight, “The USA is where we live, and that is who we are. It was really cool hearing that.”   Both teams’ uniforms had USA on the back of the jerseys instead of player names.

President Obama visited the MSU locker room before the game and spoke with the team. Tom Izzo told the President that, “Our young team is going to have some growing pains.” To that the President replied, “I have had some of those too.”  

Before the game seniors Draymond Green and Austin Thornton made an emotional appeal to the young MSU team.  “I like the way our team competed, they had a look in their eyes I didn’t see last year,” said Izzo.

MSU jumped out to a seven point lead at the 11:54 mark of the first-half before #1 North Carolina went on a 28-12 run to close out the half with a 36–25 lead.  16 of the Tar Heels first half points were on MSU turnovers as the Spartans turned the ball over 12 times.   

In the second-half MSU cut the lead to ten at the 6:07 mark after a Draymond Green dunk but that is as close as they got until the final minute when Adreian Payne made his second consecutive dunk to make the score 65-55. 

Draymond Green who played all but two minutes led the Spartans with 13 points and 18 rebounds.  Freshman F Branden Dawson playing in his first college game had ten points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes, F Adrien Payne chipped in with ten points.

MSU was hurt by the foul trouble of PG Keith Appling who only played 19 minutes. With Appling out freshman PG Travis Trice was not yet able to run the set plays which Izzo loves.  Izzo said, “Trice did some good and also bad things.”  

In the trailer adjacent the court on the flight deck which served as the MSU locker room, Tom Izzo said, “In looking at the game it was not a fun night. Our rebounding was good, and even our transition defense was OK. We did not shoot the ball well, and for that matter neither did North Carolina. 

We had to play so many young guys that we couldn’t really run anything. Our freshman had that “U.P. Brook Trout look, or others say deer in the headlights and I can’t blame them.  We will benefit from this”.  MSU out-rebounded the bigger Tar Heels 49-34 which pleased Izzo, but shooting only 30.6% and 2-20 from beyond the arc doomed the Spartans upset effort.

In one corner of the court on the giant ship control tower along side a huge lit up #70 was a giant sign which read “Beware of jet blast, propellers and rotors.” On this night the aircraft were silent, but the experience of the first ever Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson will be lifetime memories for everyone.  

The carrier with its crew of over 4,000 will soon leave San Diego on a seven-month deployment to the West Pacific and Persian Gulf.   Izzo’s Spartans after returning to MSU will then travel to New York to face Duke Tuesday night (7:00 PM ESPN) at Madison Square Garden.