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November 28, 2012The crowd was rocking hours before in Assembly Hall, with the fans leading the energized Hoosiers team when they faced UNC on Tuesday night.
This was the marquee matchup of the night, as it let two historic programs battle it out on the floor, which surprisingly seems to be rare in the series of North Carolina and Indiana.
However, as highly as this game was anticipated, Indiana (7-0) completely dominated North Carolina (5-2) as they were able to cruise to an 83-59 victory Tuesday night, allowing the Big Ten to take control the first night in the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge.
Indiana started out strong, scoring quick buckets in transition and being able to get in the middle of the floor, especially with Cody Zeller running the floor and looking like a replica of his older brother, Tyler Zeller.
Indiana led 18-17 in the first 10 minutes of play, but seemed to struggle from the 3 point line early, allowing UNC taking its first lead 19-18 with Brice Johnson getting in the books early with six quick points (10 for the game).
Marcus Paige and Yogi Ferrell matched up early in the game, as they both played pretty well and seemed to be able to handle their first true test on national television. Marcus was able to score early in the game with five points and hitting the first 3 point basket of the game for the Heels.
As one Indiana fan pointed out early in the game, "UNC has so many guards," which seemingly helped UNC in the first half when they attacked the basket.
But Indiana was able to counter that with transition points and easy points in the paint, as the Heels struggled on defense in the paint. But what helped was not the down low pounding between the front courts, but the back court being able to get penetration that forced UNC's forwards away from their men, giving Indiana easy lay ups.
What seemed to ignite the Hoosier's on offense and the crowd, was late in the first half, Indiana was able to get easy dunks against a struggling UNC defense and take a 46-37 lead into halftime.
Coming out in the second half, Indiana continued how they finished in the first, playing intense basketball on both ends of the floor. The Tar Heels were not able to score for approximately five minutes to start the second half, which allowed Indiana to increase their lead to double digits, growing as big as 19 points at the first timeout of the second half on the strength of a fast and decisive 10-0 run.
Indiana just looked like the team they should be, with crisp offense, troubling defense, driving ability, and their 3 pt. shooting on point. The Heels, to put it gently, struggled tremendously the first part of the second half, allowing Indiana to pour it on and making it look easy.
At one point in the second half, the Tar Heels went 1-17 from the field, which allowed the Hoosier's to increase their lead to 26 points (66-40) and for Indiana to never look back.
"The biggest thing was the energy. We just had to keep up the energy, keep pushing it in transition and keep getting after them on defense and we were hoping eventually they'd start missing shots so we just had to keep doing what we were doing and keep the energy up" said Zeller about IU's strong play in the second half.
In the end, Roy Williams really thought they could come back from its halftime deficit, but it wasn't even close.
"I thought we would make a comeback the second half but it just didn't get going for us. I think it is more of a case of our kids trying to do too much because I think they really care" Williams said about his team.
The lead grew to its biggest at 32, with the score being 83-51 at the 4:22 mark in the second, but that was far after the game was in hand for the Hoosiers.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Indiana looked like the number one team Tuesday night.
They were able to effectively move the ball around, with multiple guys contributing on both ends. Four players scored double digits for the Hoosiers, with Zeller's 20 points leading the way.
Defense was a huge flaw for UNC, as they were beat mostly at their own game; transition points, stiffening defense, and being able to score points on a large amount of attempts.
All are factors that Indiana was able to capitalize on Tuesday night as one can see from the stat lines. Indiana shot 44.6 percent from the field (40 percent from 3pt), out-rebounded UNC 49-42, and they created 12 turnovers along with having 21 assists, six blocks, six steals, but only 10 turnovers in the game.
Even though the headlines will read what Zeller did against James Michael McAdoo, the guy that had the best overall game was the six-foot senior guard Jordan Hulls. He was able to compile 13 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in the game while draining some critical threes in the game.
UNC's youth showed in the game, as Coach Williams mentioned it in the press conference after the game.
"Every kid is a good player and when we're down, they think they can score a basket that's going to give us 25 points in one shot. The more mature you get, the better and stronger you get as a team and good things can happen for you."
As mentioned above, the bench play was be a key component to the game.
Will Sheehey scored as many points for IU as the whole UNC bench, as he contributed 19 points on 8-12 shooting (3-4 behind the arc) in just 26 minutes of action.
P.J. Hairston would have provided another scoring threat off the bench and probably been able to stretch more of the defense, but that likely wouldn't have provided enough against this tough Hoosier team.
Say what you want, but the Heels have a lot to learn from experiences such as this one. Indiana is number one for a reason, but there are no excuses in sports.
The Heels will need to take this experience and learn from their mistakes. That is two games now early in the season that UNC has shot poorly and their defense was poor at best.
For this team to grow there will have to be more determination to get better on the defensive side of the ball because shots might not always fall, such as in games like Tuesday night.
With little doubt, Williams will try to get through to this team with some hard practices coming up.
Roy really seemed to admire what Tom Crean and Indiana has done, agreeing that they looked like a number one team.
"I think they are," was Williams' reply when asked if Indiana deserves to be the number one team in the nation.
"The thing I like about them is that they really are a team. They don't have one guy that beats you up; they beat you up so many different ways," he said.
It's hard to deny it after a solid victory like that against UNC.
North Carolina will get a chance later this week to take what they have learned and apply it, as they will be coming back to Chapel Hill for a game against UAB on Saturday, December 1 at 6:00pm.
This will be the beginning of a stretch of five out of six home games for the Tar Heels, with the lone exception being a road game at Texas in Austin on Wednesday, December 19.
For five consecutive Saturdays the Tar Heels will be playing in front of the home crowd at the Smith Center.
This surely will give them a chance to get away from the Indiana and Butler losses, get through exams, and hopefully build on their season, because it isn't how you play in the beginning of the year, it's always about where you are at the end.