Five players scored in double figures for North Carolina (5-2), which was coming off a loss at UAB on Sunday, but got 15 points from forward Kennedy Meeks, 14 from forward Brice Johnson and 13 each from guards Marcus Paige and Nate Britt. Forward J.P. Tokot added 12.
The Spartans (7-1) dropped their first game of the season and lost to the Tar Heels for the seventh straight time. Forward Adreian Payne scored 16 and Keith Appling added 13, but Appling was injured late in the first half and Payne battled cramps all night.
North Carolina now has victories over No. 1 Michigan State and No. 3 Louisville while also losing to UAB and Belmont. The Tar Heels dominated the Spartans on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 49-38 and grabbing 15 offensive rebounds.
The Tar Heels came out firing on all cylinders, dominating the Spartans on the glass and taking a 20-6 lead nearly 10 minutes into the opening half. Forward James Michael McAdoo led a balanced attack, hitting a pair of baseline jumpers that pushed North Carolina's lead to 30-19 with a little more than six minutes to play in the half.
Appling went out at the 6:02 mark when he fell hard under the basket, but that's when the Spartans made their run. Payne scored seven straight Michigan State points and when he nailed a 3-pointer with 1:38 to play, the score was tied.
Appling returned with a minute left, but his final shot at the buzzer didn't fall.
NOTES: Michigan State sophomore G Gary Harris was in the starting lineup after missing the Spartans' game against Mount St. Mary's on Friday because of a sore right ankle. ... Sophomore C Matt Costello has the flu and did not start for Michigan State. Foul trouble forced him into the game in the first half, however, as his replacement, Alex Gauna, was whistled twice in the opening minutes. ... North Carolina coach Roy Williams entered the game a perfect 6-0 against Michigan State while coaching the Tar Heels. His only loss against Michigan State came as coach at Kansas.