Carolina (34-4) finished an impressive NCAA run that saw it defeat six opponents, including Villanova, by an average of 20.2 points, winning no game by fewer than 12. It marked the Tar Heels' fifth national championship, tying Indiana for third all-time, and enabled Roy Williams to become the 13th head coach to win more than one.
Junior Wayne Ellington, the former Episcopal Academy star, scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half when the Tar Heels built their sizable advantage and set a championship game record with 55 points.
Junior point guard Ty Lawson scored 21 points, dished out six assists and set a title game record with eight steals. Senior Tyler Hansbrough added 18 points.
Those three players, along with senior Danny Green, all resolved to return to the team and not test the NBA waters after losing in the national semifinals last year. Their plan paid off in a big way.
The Spartans (31-7), who said they wanted to win to give economically depressed Detroit area something to smile about, committed 14 turnovers in falling behind by 21 points at the half.
They couldn't muster a comeback of any significance early in the second half even though the Tar Heels made only three of their first 16 shots from the field in the opening 10-plus minutes.
The best they could do during this time was close to 68-53 on a free throw by Draymond Green with 9 minutes, 32 seconds left.
The Spartans, who sank only one of their first 10 three-point attempts in the second half, kept grinding. Carolina failed to convert a pair of one-and-one opportunities. Michigan State got a three-ball from Goran Suton and six free throws, including a pair by Kalin Lucas with 4:47 to play that closed the gap to 76-63.
But the Tar Heels got a nifty drive from Lawson, who went behind the back and split two defenders. He later nailed two free throws and Bobby Frasor got a layup off a turnover, and Carolina was home free at 84-65 with 2:30 to play.
Suton led the Spartans with 17 points and Lucas added 14.
Amid all the excitement and noise generated by the tens of thousands of Michigan State fans, the first half simply became a matter of the Tar Heels picking up where had they left off Dec. 3, when they outscored the Spartans by 21 in the second half.
And what do you know? When the buzzer sounded to end tonight's opening 20 minutes, North Carolina held a 55-34 advantage - 21 points.
The Tar Heels opened 6 for 7 from the field and finished the first half shooting nearly 53 percent. The Spartans made 44.4 percent of their field-goal attempts but committed 14 turnovers, with Lawson accounting for seven steals.
Ellington went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and 7 of 9 overall to lead Carolina with 17 points at the break; Hansbrough added 11. Lawson made 1 of 5 shots, but with his steals and three assists, probably no one from the Tar Heels worried in the least.
Suton, who did not play in the first Carolina-State matchup because of a knee injury, led the Spartans with nine points in the first half.
North Carolina led by 10 before the game was 41/2 minutes old. The Tar Heels had 24 points with about 131/2 minutes to play - a 72-point pace for the half - and led by 34-11 when Hansbrough converted both ends of a one-and-one with 9:44 remaining.
The Carolina defense held the Spartans to one field goal over 61/2 minutes, a stretch that ended after Hansbrough's free throws. Michigan State coughed up five turnovers during that time.
The Tar Heels got fine performances from inside players not named Hansbrough in the first half. Deon Thompson, a 6-foot-8 junior, scored nine points before the period was half over. Ed Davis, a 6-10 freshman, scored back-to-back baskets on a couple of nifty moves around the hoop.
Ellington sank a short jumper and a three-ball on consecutive possessions to restore Carolina's 23-point advantage. After Suton drained a hook shot, Ellington knocked down another trey, and Carolina had its biggest margin of the half, 46-22, with 4:46 to play.
Try as they might, the green-clad Michigan State faithful could not convert the cheers into points. Fans roared late in the half when the Spartans cut the deficit to 18, but Carolina managed to get the advantage back to 20 and more.
The same thing happened in the opening minutes of the second half. Michigan State got to within 18 three times in the first 61/2 minutes, but the Tar Heels always had an answer.
One answer came on a play in which Spartans coach Tom Izzo felt Lawson had stepped on the out-of-bounds line saving a loose ball. Davis took advantage of the save and scored to make it a 20-point game once again.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com.