No. 1 Indiana blows out struggling UNC 83-59

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 28, 2012 

— For about 15 minutes Tuesday night at raucous, rowdy Assembly Hall, North Carolina matched top-ranked Indiana point for point.

Then the Hoosiers showed why they entered the season as one of the favorites to win the national championship, and the Tar Heels showed, once again in this young season, how far away they are from becoming the kind of team they believe they can be.

There wasn’t any one single factor that led to Indiana’s dominant 83-59 victory.

It wasn’t just Cody Zeller’s dominance in the interior, or UNC’s inability to box out the Hoosiers and eliminate second-chance opportunities. It wasn’t just that Indiana continually beat Tar Heels defenders down the court for easy baskets, or that No. 14 UNC (5-2) made just one of eight 3-point attempts.

It was all of those things, and others, that led to UNC’s most lopsided nonconference defeat during coach Roy Williams’ 10 seasons.

“It wasn’t a good night for us,” Williams said. “…They were really more aggressive. They were quicker to the ball.”

For a while, it seemed like UNC might have a chance. The Tar Heels didn’t play particularly well during the first 15 minutes, but after two free throws by James Michael McAdoo, they were tied with Indiana (7-0) at 31 with 4 minutes, 14 seconds left in the half.

That the game was that close, though, turned out to be a mirage. Indiana’s Will Sheehey broke the tie with a layup and Victor Oladipo made two free throws after Dexter Strickland was called for an intentional foul.

From there, the Hoosiers took control. They closed the half on a 15-6 run, and Zeller, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, had six points during that surge – four on dunks and the final two on a put-back that gave the Hoosiers a 46-37 lead as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Halftime brought only temporarily relief for UNC. Williams had earlier criticized his team’s toughness – mentally and physically. He called on his players to perform with more fortitude.

Yet they didn’t, or couldn’t, at the start of the second half.

Indiana scored the first 13 points of the second half, and the Tar Heels didn’t score until Reggie Bullock’s tip-in off a miss with about 15 minutes to play. Overall, UNC missed 17 of its first 18 attempts from the field in the second half.

And seconds after Bullock’s tip-in, Zeller beat UNC’s defense down the court for a layup.

It was a play that was indicative of UNC’s primary problem: The Tar Heels were often outhustled, and nearly always out-executed. While UNC struggled to work the ball around the Indiana defense to find open shots, the Hoosiers made extra passes that allowed for easier offensive opportunities.

While the Tar Heels had trouble running in transition, Indiana at times made it look easy.

In addition to Zeller’s 20 points, Sheehey and Oladipo finished with 19 apiece and Jordan Hulls had 13 for Indiana. The Hoosiers made eight of 20 3-point attempts. Strickland led the Tar Heels with 14 points.

Earlier in the week, Strickland said this game would “show a lot” about the Tar Heels, especially after their defeat against Butler last week in the Maui Invitational.

“It’s going to tell a lot about our team, and how we respond from the Butler game and how we can be throughout the season,” Strickland said Monday. “You know, it’s the No. 1 team. And we’ve just got to be ready to play. I think everybody is going to be ready to play.”

After playing tough early on, though, Indiana proved UNC wasn’t ready. At least not for this kind of test, at this point in the season.

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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