“It was 31-31, and then we just have a drought,” coach Roy Williams said. “We don’t put the ball in the basket the last two or three minutes of the half. I took Marcus (Paige) out because he already had two fouls, and I didn’t want him to give up his third foul. And then we start the second half and … we make one of our first 18 shots.”
The Hoosiers snatched the momentum back from North Carolina (5-2) in the closing minutes of the first half with a swift 15-6 run that included two thunderous dunks — one from Victor Oladipo, the other from Cody Zeller.
Both of those slams came as the result of tough defense by the Hoosiers that forced a turnover and a missed James Michael McAdoo shot.
From the final minute of the first half through the first six minutes of the second, Indiana didn’t allow the Tar Heels a single field goal.
Zeller finished the night with a game-high 20 points and pulled in 8 rebounds. He also swatted away four shots. But he didn’t just dominate from inside the paint, he also illustrated his athleticism in the way he outpaced the Tar Heels in transition.
“He’s an athletic big,” said a downtrodden Desmond Hubert after the loss. “He’s physical. He runs the floor well. He’s just like his brother, he’s just a little bit more athletic.”
But Zeller wasn’t the only Hoosier making an impact. Oladipo and Will Sheehey both added 19 points and as a team, Indiana racked up 21 assists.
North Carolina had just eight.
“We had them in the first half and we were in good position,” Hubert said, “but everyone on their team knows what they’re supposed to do. They all do their jobs and they do it well.”
Strickland, with 14 points, was North Carolina’s leading scorer, but the other two Tar Heel starters with more than a handful of games’ experience — Reggie Bullock and McAdoo — combined for just 15.
Bullock scored all five of his points in the second half and McAdoo’s 10 all came in the first. Williams credited the IU defense for executing the gameplan of shutting those two players down.
Williams was impressed by the way the Hoosiers played together.
“They were just more aggressive,” Williams said. “If you like Indiana basketball, you had to enjoy the night. And I like Indiana basketball but not nearly as much as I like North Carolina basketball. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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