WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana used a 15-6 run at the end of the first half and a 20-3 run at the start of the second to hammer No. 14 North Carolina 83-59 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Sophomore center Cody Zeller had one of his best games as a collegian, showing off his phenomenal-for-a-big-man speed and muscle to beat North Carolina on the break and beat the Tar Heels up in the post. He finished with 20 points and eight rebounds and was also better at protecting the rim than ever before. he blocked four shots. He recorded just one assist, but his passing was much better than that, as he was able to find cutters and shooters through the post.
Junior swingman Will Sheehey had one of the best shooting nights of his career, shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and scoring 19 points. He was also critical defensively. IU coach Tom Crean shifted him on to North Carolina’s James McAdoo after senior forward Christian Watford struggled against him and Sheehey locked him up for the entire second half. McAdoo scored 10 points in the first half, but went 0-for-5 in the second half and didn’t score at all.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo was equally outstanding on both sides of the ball. He attacked the glass and scored on dribble drives, baseline cuts and post-ups to finish with 19 points, and he was just as much of a lock-down defender as Sheehey. Oladipo held Reggie Bullock, North Carolina’s second-leading scorer, to just five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls continued his lights-out shooting and had perhaps his best all-around game of the season. Hulls scored 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting with three 3-points and dished out eight assists without committing a turnover. The 6-footer also grabbed seven rebounds and recorded two steals.
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell couldn’t get any of his six shots to fall and finished with just two points, but he had six assists and just one turnover and was brilliant in his running of the offense.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Most importantly, Indiana played phenomenal defense to start the second half. North Carolina started the game 16-for-33 from the field and the game was tied 31-31 with 4:14 to go in the first half. From that point on, the Tar Heels shot just 2-for-8 from the field for the rest of the half and then made just one of their first 20 second half shots. And that one shot came off a rebound and might have actually gone off Sheehey into the bucket. Sheehey and Oladipo were both critical to that, but all of Indiana’s defenders were excellent with ball pressure and Zeller was at his most imposing, cleaning up and challenging any shots that came his way.
The Hoosiers also played North Carolina’s game better than North Carolina. Knowing the Tar Heels were going to try to fast break at every opportunity, the Hoosiers ran right at them, sending Oladipo and Zeller to the rim off of made baskets, inbounding the ball quickly and finding them with passes over their shoulders for easy layups and dunks. That kept the Tar Heels from gaining any momentum and allowed the Hoosiers to take over quickly once they had the lead.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: That Indiana has made the most emphatic statement yet that it is the No. 1 team in the country, decimating a Top 25 team and a blue blood with a punishing effort. The win has lots of symbolic value, considering that four years ago in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Hoosiers were blown away by Wake Forest by a nearly identical score, losing 83-58 in Winston Salem in 2008.
It also means the Hoosiers are in a way, out of the woods in terms of their post depth. There are two games remaining in the suspensions of freshman forwards Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin. Indiana plays low-major squads Coppin State and Central Connecticut State in those games, and will have Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin back for the game against Butler in Indianapolis on Dec. 15. The Hoosiers were able to get past three significantly bigger teams in Georgia, Georgetown and North Carolina — Georgetown was the biggest of the bunch and that game obviously helped the Hoosiers on Tuesday, and they remain No. 1 in the nation as they improve to 7-0.
WHO SAID WHAT:
IU Coach Tom Crean
On Indiana’s fast break:
“Our guys are very confident in their running game,” Crean said. “The key against North Carolina is, everybody thinks its going to be a fast-paced game, but if you let them control and dictate the pace of the game, they’re hard to beat. We had to control the pace of the game. That meant that we needed to run to make sure we could get as many easy baskets.”
On Will Sheehey defending James McAdoo
“Will Sheehey did a phenomenal job on him. We gave up a couple of boards, but Will was fighting him, Will was making it hard for him to make catches. We knew that they were going to need to go to him to get it going.”
On the significance of the win
“You guys know just as well as I know that this program, not last year, but over the past couple of years, has really been struggling,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said. “We’re trying to get it back to where it belongs. And that’s on top. For us to get a win like that, it’s a humbling experience, not only for us, but for this program as well.”
On Jordan Hulls.
“He’s a bad boy. Bad boys bad boys. Whatcha goin, whatcha gonna do?” (Yes, he really sang that. Into the microphone. At a press conference.)