What coach in his right mind would agree to play a nonconference game against Indiana at Assembly Hall these days when he has a better chance of taking Charlize Theron out to dinner than getting a road win against the Hoosiers?
The latest example of Indiana's home dominance came Tuesday when the top-ranked Hoosiers demolished North Carolina 83-59 in what was supposed to be the marquee game of ACC-Big Ten Challenge's first night. Indiana toyed with the Tar Heels for a while before seizing control by unleashing a 39-12 blitz spanning the last four minutes of the first half and the first 11 minutes of the second.
The one-sided outcome raised questions about North Carolina's ability to contend in the ACC this season but reaffirmed that Assembly Hall will again be one of the nation's best home-court advantages. Indiana beat Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State there last season, losing only once to Minnesota by three points.
Choosing the most impressive aspect of Indiana's performance Tuesday night is difficult because the Hoosiers did so many things well.
There was Cody Zeller scoring 20 points in 28 minutes mostly by simply beating North Carolina's big men down the floor for transition layups. There was Victor Oladipo contributing 19 points and locking down Reggie Bullock with his defense. And there was Indiana's big men taking away North Carolina's greatest strength by limiting the Tar Heels to nine offensive boards, less than half their season average.
But what Indiana did best Tuesday night was probably the way it shared the basketball. The Hoosiers made the extra pass every chance they got and racked up 21 assists, eight of them by Jordan Hulls and six by Yogi Ferrell. Both those guards did an exceptional job of finding Zeller as he streaked down the court in transition ahead of the defense.
Indiana's precision attack exposed some flaws in a youthful North Carolina team with few proven returners. The Tar Heels crumbled at the first hint of adversity as Indiana's lead ballooned from nine at halftime to an insurmountable 20, something they'll have to learn from if they want to contend in the ACC this winter.
Between this 24-point rout and a lackluster loss to Butler in Maui, the Tar Heels appear to be a little behind where they would like to be at this stage of the season. They don't defend consistently or run back on defense. They're over-reliant on the offensive glass against teams they should dominate. And they don't have many answers offensively when better teams are able to hold their own on the glass.
Still, chances are North Carolina is nowhere near as bad as it looked Tuesday because Indiana will probably make plenty of teams look awful at Assembly Hall.
At the beginning of the week, many touted Duke as the nation's No. 1 team because the Blue Devils have a better resume than any team in the nation with victories over Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota and VCU. Duke deserves credit because nobody else can match that collection of wins, but Indiana proved Tuesday it's still a worthy No. 1.
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