EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- North Carolina flashed its potential again, earning another impressive victory after a second shaky setback.
J.P. Tokoto had 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds to help the Tar Heels beat No. 1 Michigan State 79-65 Wednesday night.
North Carolina (5-2) has been talented enough to knock off the top-ranked Spartans and then-No. 3 Louisville this season, but the Tar Heels have also lost to Belmont and UAB.
"I truly believe after the Louisville win, our mentality after that was, `Birmingham is just going to be an automatic win. Just because we're North Carolina,'" Tokoto said. "We can't have that mentality - and kind of learned that Sunday night.
"We came here, were ready to play, intensity level was up, and we got results."
The Spartans (7-1) lost to an unranked nonconference team at home for the first time in more than a decade. They looked nothing like the team that beat then-No. 1 Kentucky a few weeks ago or the program that has had so much success over nearly two decades under coach Tom Izzo.
"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 took 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.
"We looked soft," he 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're as happy as we can possibly be - 179 degrees away from where we were after the UAB game," Williams said.
Kennedy Meeks scored 15 points for North Carolina and Brice Johnson had 14 off the bench. Marcus Paige and Nate Britt added 13 apiece.
"You can't tell in college basketball what's going to happen," Williams said. "At one point, we had three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on the court."
Gary Harris had 17 points and Keith Appling scored 13, but both Michigan State guards missed 10 of 15 shots. Adreian Payne had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spartans, whose last loss at home against an unranked nonconference team was Toledo on Dec. 30, 2002.
The Tar Heels beat a No. 1 team for the first time since March 4, 2006, at Duke, and they have a nation-high 13 wins over top-ranked teams. They've won seven straight against the Spartans, including in the 2009 NCAA final.
Tokoto has taken advantage of an expanded role while P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald sit out because of NCAA eligibility concerns.
The 6-foot-5 Tokoto, who is from Wisconsin, made some friends and family members in the stands at the Breslin Center happy while green-and-white clad fans didn't have much to get excited about.
Tokoto blocked a shot early in the second half, got to a loose ball and threw it to Appling - while the Michigan State player was standing out of bounds - and made three straight shots later in the half to help the Tar Heels pull away.
"J.P. was really active," Williams said. "He did a lot of things. He's so athletic."
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.
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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NEW YORK (AP) -- Free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off winning the World Series with Boston, reached agreement with the rival New York Yankees on a seven-year contract worth about $153 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday night.
Ellsbury is the second major free-agent addition in the Yankees' offseason rebuilding after missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. The center fielder was to take a physical in New York on Wednesday that he must pass before the deal can be finalized, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
The Yankees also had been negotiating with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who like Ellsbury is represented by agent Scott Boras.
Earlier Tuesday, New York finalized an $85 million, five-year contract with All-Star catcher Brian McCann.
There is a long history of stars moving from Beantown to the Big Apple during their careers. Babe Ruth was the most famous, and Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Johnny Damon followed.
Ellsbury, who turned 30 in September, led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being hobbled late in the season by a broken right foot. The lefty-hitting leadoff man batted .298 with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium should boost his power numbers.
Ellsbury's deal includes a $21 million option for the 2021 season, with a $5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would be worth $169 million over eight years.
His agreement may not be finalized this week, and it's possible he could be introduced by the Yankees during a news conference at the winter meetings next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The move would raise the Yankees' luxury tax payroll to about $138 million for 10 players. The Yankees hope to get under the $189 million tax threshold next season, which includes about $177 million for salaries for the 40-man roster and approximately $12 million for benefits.
New York also has been speaking with the agents for Robinson Cano, their All-Star second baseman. The Yankees, who rebuffed his request for a 10-year deal worth more than $300 million, believe he has been in talks with the Seattle Mariners.
Ellsbury won a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox and was an All-Star in 2011, when he finished second to Detroit's Justin Verlander in AL MVP voting. He has reached the postseason four times and is a career .301 hitter in those 38 games.
After their playoff absence, the Yankees are undergoing a major transformation. Closer Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are retiring, Phil Hughes is leaving to sign with Minnesota and New York appears to be making little effort to retain outfielder Curtis Granderson.
McCann, a seven-time All-Star, is to be introduced at a news conference Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
He receives $17 million in each of the next five seasons, and the Yankees have a $15 million option for 2019 with no buyout. The option becomes McCann's if he has at least 1,000 plate appearances combined in 2017 and 2018, has at least 90 starts at catcher in 2018 and does not end the 2018 season on the disabled list.
His deal includes a full no-trade provision, meaning he cannot be dealt without his consent.
McCann, who turns 30 in February, hit .256 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs in 102 games this year, when he missed the first month following offseason surgery on his right shoulder. He has a .277 average in nine big league seasons with 176 homers and 661 RBIs.
Following the departure of Russell Martin last offseason, Yankees catchers combined for a .213 average, eight homers and 43 RBIs, according to STATS, down from .220, 22 and 64 in 2012.
"We feel we have made a significant improvement to a key position, while adding a high-character presence to our clubhouse," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans."
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Rookie Tyler Toffoli scored two goals, Jarret Stoll also tallied and Ben Scrivens made 25 saves for the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
Scrivens, who has performed brilliantly in place of the injured Jonathan Quick, was heading toward his fourth shutout of the season when Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the final 5:54. Scrivens has given up fewer than three goals in each of his last 10 starts and has posted two shutouts since Quick went on injured reserve with a Grade Two groin strain on Nov. 12 at Buffalo.
Los Angeles has allowed fewer than three goals in a franchise-record 13 consecutive games. The streak includes a pair of 3-2 shootout losses to Buffalo and San Jose.
Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves for the Blues, who have lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season following their 6-3 defeat at San Jose on Friday. Halak had allowed just five goals in his previous five starts after getting pulled with a 3-0 deficit in the first period of a 4-1 loss at Washington on Nov. 17.
The Kings, who hadn't had a first-period goal in any of their previous four home games - all losses - opened the scoring at the 10:38 mark. Stoll got the puck from Justin Williams near the top of the left circle and took a 40-foot wrist shot that glanced off defenseman Barret Jackman's leg and past Halak with Dustin Brown screening the goalie.
Toffoli made it 2-0 at 16:13 of the period, beating Halak from short range after Drew Doughty's long snap shot from the high slot deflected off Toffoli's stick and Halak's right shoulder before hitting the crossbar. He gave the Kings a three-goal cushion at 5:48 of the second, scoring from the low slot after Willie Mitchell's wrist shot from the left point caromed off teammate Mike Richards.
Toffoli, a 21-year-old center who was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft, has six goals and 11 points in 14 games since he was recalled from the minors on Nov. 2 - and four of his goals have been game-winners. His only other two-goal game in the NHL was on November 9 at Staples Center in a 5-1 win over Vancouver.
NOTES: St. Louis has yet to be shut out this season. ... The Kings eliminated the Blues from the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons. In 2012, they beat St. Louis in the second round on the way to their first Stanley Cup title. The Blues, who entered the NHL with the Kings in the 1967 expansion, are still looking for their first Cup. ... Kings captain Dustin Brown has been held to a goal and an assist in his last 13 games. ... Los Angeles C Jeff Carter, playing in his fourth game after missing the previous 10 because of a lower body injury, carried the puck into the Blues' zone and took a 50-wrist shot that beat Halak to the stick side - but hit the left post with 9 1-2 minutes into the second period. ... The Kings are 8-0-0 when leading after two periods. ... Los Angeles is 0 for 20 on the power play over its last six games.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams arrived in San Francisco ready to grab some momentum for the December push with a third straight victory.
They even caught a break when 49ers left tackle Joe Staley went down with a knee injury early, providing a possible opening to get more pressure on quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Yet Kaepernick shined with a healthy receiving corps at last as Michael Crabtree made his season debut, and San Francisco's stingy defense flustered Kellen Clemens all day in the Rams' 23-13 loss Sunday.
"We went into the ballgame knowing that it was going to be a slug-out kind of physical game up front," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We would have liked to carry on what we've been doing over the last couple of weeks, but for some reason we didn't match up well against these guys."
Crabtree's return opened up the field all the more for Anquan Boldin - not to mention Vernon Davis and his high-hurdle show.
Boldin caught nine passes from Kaepernick, Crabtree made his long-awaited debut six months after Achilles tendon surgery, and the 49ers pressured the Rams defense from every angle.
On the other side of the ball, St. Louis managed only 73 total yards in the first half and regularly thwarted drives with its own mistakes.
Clemens went 19 of 37 for 218 yards with a late TD pass in a dismal afternoon by the Rams (5-7), who were trying for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
"There were some plays out there that we had opportunities to make which would have gotten us into a little bit of a better rhythm offensively," Clemens said. "We didn't make them."
The Rams committed 11 penalties for 105 yards. They settled for a 43-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein just before halftime in their best drive to that point, then Zuerlein kicked a 34-yarder in the third quarter. St. Louis scored a late touchdown against the second-team defense.
Kaepernick went 19 of 28 for 275 yards and Frank Gore ran for a 3-yard touchdown as the reigning NFC champion Niners (8-4) boosted their position in the playoff picture. Crabtree had a 60-yard catch, while Vernon Davis hurdled into the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown reception.
With Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in the house, Boldin had six receptions in the first half on the way to his second-most productive game of the year behind his 13-catch performance in the season opener against Green Bay.
Crabtree, San Francisco's leading wide receiver during last season's Super Bowl run, had two catches just more than six months after he tore his right Achilles tendon and had surgery. Just having him on the field kept the St. Louis defense from focusing all its attention on Boldin and Davis.
"He's a big physical receiver, and his presence out there is definitely felt," linebacker James Laurinaitis said of Crabtree. "You have to pay attention to him. Whenever you have big receivers, physical guys like Boldin and Crabtree, and you have to worry about the speed of Vernon Davis ... they have a lot of weapons."
Davis displayed his athleticism with a new signature move, and did so not once but twice: a high hurdle over defenders. He led with his right foot while leaping over safety Rodney McLeod in the first half, then again to reach the end zone on his team-leading 10th touchdown catch. Davis also was tackled by T.J. McDonald with a prolonged, painful grab to his crotch. That was a first in his career.
"I was hurting," Davis said.
A year after the teams left Candlestick with a 24-24 tie, the 49ers methodically took care that it didn't happen again. They made it consecutive commanding victories in a short week following a 27-6 win at Washington on Monday night that snapped a two-game skid.
While Kaepernick was sacked four times, Robert Quinn and the opportunistic Rams defense failed to make the game-changing plays it had the past two weeks - even when Staley was lost to a right knee injury early in the game. The St. Louis defensive line had scored touchdowns in each of the previous two games.
The 49ers held the Rams in check before the second-team defense surrendered Brian Quick's 3-yard touchdown catch with 18 seconds remaining.
St. Louis lost left tackle Jake Long late in the third quarter to a concussion after he collided into running back Zac Stacy, who played after dealing with concussion-like symptoms following a win against the Bears.
"He's going to have to undergo the concussion protocol," Fisher said. "He's already started it."
NOTES: Stacy had 72 yards on 19 carries. ... Rams C Scott Wells suffered an ankle injury.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Brent Burns got his first NHL hat trick and the Sharks ended a five-game home losing streak to St. Louis with a 6-3 victory over the Blues on Friday.
Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels also scored for the Sharks, who won their fourth straight and seven of eight.
Ian Cole scored his first goal in nearly two years as the Blues had their five-game winning streak halted. David Backes and Jaden Schwartz also scored for St. Louis.
Antti Niemi stopped 21 of 24 shots for his 14th win of the season. Brian Elliott took the loss, his first in eight games, after giving up four goals on 12 shots. He was lifted for Jaroslav Halak, who had 18 saves.
The Blues, who earned points in their previous nine games, were off to their best road start in franchise history, bringing a 7-2-1 mark into the game.
Burns scored 35 seconds into the game, taking a nice pass from Patrick Marleau and flipping the puck over Elliott's right shoulder. Logan Couture, who has not scored a goal in seven straight, started the sequence after intercepting a clearing pass.
Thornton scored a power-play goal at 3:01, the first allowed by the Blues in six games and just the second on the road. Couture took a shot that bounced off Elliott's pad and Joe Pavelski flipped it out to Thornton, who beat Elliott to the glove side.
Burns scored his second goal of the game at 9:14 of the first, set up with a pass from Thornton.
Wingels picked up a flubbed pass to Jay Bouwmeester and had a give-and-go with Couture to make it 4-0, getting a good rebound off Elliott's glove and into the net at 11:27.
Cole, who last scored on Dec. 8, 2011, against the Anaheim Ducks, a span of 43 games, rattled the puck off the right post and had it trickle into the net.
The scoring sequence began when Halak made a terrific save and got the puck out to a streaking Roman Polak.
Backes, who took a 10-minute misconduct late in the second period, made it 4-2 with a power-play goal at 2:02 of the third period, with Derek Roy giving him a backhand pass to set up the score.
Schwartz drilled the puck off Niemi's glove on a give-and-go with Vladimir Sobotka to bring the Blues within one midway at 11:19 of the final period.
Burns got the hat trick when he converted a power-play goal at 12:19. He sneaked it past Halak on the stick side.
Hertl added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
NOTES: Thornton has 17 points in his past 15 games. ... The Blues allowed a third-period goal for the first time in eight games. Their 14 third-period goals allowed is the third fewest. ... Roy has points in five of six games. ... The Sharks scored their first power-play goal since Nov. 15, a span of seven games. ... Couture has not scored a goal in a season-long seven games and has one goal in his past 11.