11/11/2011 10:04 EST | Updated 01/11/2012 05:12 EST

Obama watches Tar Heels beat Michigan State in Carrier Classic on USS Carl Vinson

CORONADO, Calif. - The Michigan State Spartans couldn't feel too bad about losing 67-55 to No. 1 North Carolina in the Carrier Classic on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

After all, U.S. President Barack Obama sat at midcourt as the teams played the first college hoops game on an active flat top.

The Veterans Day game was conceived by Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis as a salute to the military. Most of the 8,111 fans were active-duty military.

"It's a loss but at the end of the day it's a win because of what we did," Draymond Green said after pulling down a career-high 18 rebounds for the Spartans.

Playing in front of Obama "was phenomenal," Green added. "It's not every day anyone gets to do that, so that was great. We appreciate the opportunity to show our support and our thanks to the troops for what they do for us every single day."

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and John Henson had 12 points and a career-high nine blocked shots as the Tar Heels put their size advantage to good use.

Obama watched intently, chatted with wife Michelle and service members seated near him, and at one point appeared to check his BlackBerry. When the game ended, he applauded and then shook hands with coaches Roy Williams and Tom Izzo.

The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden's burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama.

Fitting with the Veterans Day theme, the Tar Heels and Spartans had USA rather than their names on the back of their jerseys, which had a camouflage design. At dusk, the game was paused for the lowering of the American flag. When the game ended, the players gave their jerseys to servicemen.

In a nod to the troops, Williams and his staff wore combat boots and cargo pants.

The Carrier Classic featured slam dunks and fast breaks on a court plopped down where jet fighters normally scream into flight.

North Carolina led by double digits from late in the first half on, including 36-25 after Kendall Marshall made two free throws with 44.8 seconds left before halftime.

This game turned out as have recent matchups between the schools. North Carolina has beaten Michigan State six straight times, including in the 2009 national championship game.

The Tar Heels' biggest lead was 59-38 with 10:42 left before Michigan State closed within 10 points with 5:43 left.

Dexter Strickland had 10 points for North Carolina.

Green scored 13 points and had an unbelievable game on the boards, including 11 defensive rebounds. Michigan State outrebounded the Tar Heels 49-34 but made only 2 of 20 3-pointers.

"One of the things we talked about was getting back to our roots," Green said. "To outrebound one of the biggest, best front courts in the nation by 15, that's phenomenal. If we attack the boards like that every single game, we're going to win a lot of games."

Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne scored 10 points each for the Spartans.

Green said it was great getting to play in front of the president.

"That was phenomenal," he said. "It's not every day anyone gets to do that."