BLOOMINGTON, Ind.--- North Carolina hung with the nation's best team on its home floor for nearly a half Tuesday night, but top-ranked Indiana pulled away late in the first half and early in the second half for a lopsided 83-59 triumph over the Tar Heels.
IU All-American Cody Zeller led the way for the Hoosiers (7-0) with 20 points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots.
"The biggest thing was the energy," said Zeller afterwards. "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."
For a UNC squad coming off a humiliating performance in Maui against Butler last week, this is the second straight Tuesday in which they took off a half.
But unfortunately against this Indiana squad taking off a half means getting spanked, which is exactly what happened to the Tar Heels.
Zeller got off to a fast start for the Hoosiers, scoring seven of its first 11 points, but the Tar Heels did not seem intimidated early on by a very hostile atmosphere inside IU's Assembly Hall.
Even after they quickly fell behind 7-2, the Tar Heels rallied to take a 19-18 lead at the midway point of the first half following a basket by Brice Johnson, concluding a run of six straight points for the Tar Heel rookie.
In all the teams were tied five different times over the first 20 minutes, but Indiana took control late in the half with a flurry of three consecutive slam dunks, stirring up the capacity crowd and for the first time all night creating a dynamic where the Tar Heels looked out of its element.
A steal by IU's Jordan Hulls that he threw ahead to Victor Oladipo for a slam dunk was immediately followed by another slam by Zeller, which gave IU a nine-point lead and got the crowd into a frenzy.
"We got on a run there going into the second half, and then we kind of kept it up coming out of the half," said Zeller.
Zeller and Oladipo each had 13 points for IU in the first half, while James Michael McAdoo led the way for the Tar Heels with 10 points.
UNC was still in the game at halftime, trailing by just nine points (46-37), but Indiana made quick work of the Tar Heels with a dominant start to the second half---the kind of second half that national championship teams often have.
IU promptly scored the first 10 minutes out of the locker rooms, forcing Williams to take a timeout at the 16:11 mark, with the Hoosiers leading 56-37.
It would wind up taking five full minutes before UNC finally got on the scoreboard in the second half, but by that point IU had turned the game into a rout, pulling away to a 61-39 cushion on another transition basket by Zeller.
By the time IU stretched its advantage out to 68-40, the Hoosiers had out-scored the Tar Heels by a whopping 22-3 over a stretch of just over nine minutes.
In a painful reversal for Coach Williams, he had to watch Zeller beat his team time and again down the court for easy baskets---the very kind of baskets that Zeller's older brother Tyler scored numerous times over his career at UNC.
Indiana didn't let up down the stretch, building its lead to 30 points (83-53) by the final media timeout, leaving absolutely no doubt who the best team was on this night.
"Our guys played great basketball tonight," said Indiana head coach Tom Crean. "Everybody understands how great North Carolina is. Our guys had an edge to them tonight. We had a lot of great basketball from a lot of people."
UNC connected on just one three-pointer all evening, compounding the problem the Tar Heels had shutting down IU's potent rotation.
The Tar Heels now return home for a series of weekend games in the Smith Center that should improve the won-loss record. This team clearly needs to gain some confidence over the next few weeks before ACC play begins.
Stay tuned for more postgame coverage from Assembly Hall here at Tar Heel Illustrated.