Hoosiers overpower Tar Heels in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The SportsXchange

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The close call Indiana experienced last week is a distant memory.

On Nov. 20, the Hoosiers struggled with Georgetown in the Progressive Legends Classic championship game before winning in overtime. The shaky performance had some questioning if they deserved their No. 1 ranking.

However, the Hoosiers' ranking looked justified Tuesday, when they Indiana crushed No. 14 North Carolina 83-59 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Cody Zeller led the Hoosiers with 20 points, and Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey contributed 19 each. Jordan Hulls added 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for Indiana (7-0).

"It's a huge statement," Sheehey said. "We've been preparing for this game for a couple weeks now. You saw the score. We played hard, we played well, and we played together."

It was the largest margin of victory in the series for Indiana since the Hoosiers earned a 107-81 win in Bloomington on Dec. 12, 1964. The Hoosiers took an 8-5 lead in the series between programs that each have won five national titles.

Dexter Strickland scored 14 points and Marcus Paige added 11 for North Carolina. James Michael McAdoo, the Tar Heels' leading scorer, finished with 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting.

North Carolina (5-2) lost to Butler 82-71 at the Maui Invitational last week and was looking to regain its footing against a top opponent. The Tar Heels shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half, but they made just 10 of 36 (27.8 percent) after the break.

The Hoosiers led 46-37 at halftime, then separated themselves with a strong start after the break.

Oladipo scored, then Zeller made a free throw to extend Indiana's lead to 49-37. A pair of free throws by Zeller made it a 14-point game.

Hulls hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 17, and Oladipo's putback made it 56-37 and forced North Carolina to call timeout. Hulls hit another 3-pointer after the timeout before the Tar Heels finally scored their first points of the second half five minutes in.

"We just allowed them to take us out of our game," McAdoo said. "It was working for the first 16 minutes of the first half. Indiana's a great team, but we felt confident going into halftime."

A 3-pointer by Sheehey pushed the margin to 66-40, and the Hoosiers remained in control from there. A right-handed power dunk by Indiana's Christian Watford brought the fans out of their seats and made it 80-49.

Much of Indiana's success came from its transition game. Zeller said the decision to push the ball had nothing to do with North Carolina.

"That's what we do," Zeller said. "If it's there, we're going to hit it."

Zeller got the Hoosiers off to a good start with a floater in the lane, and a pair of free throws by Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell gave the Hoosiers a 4-0 lead.

After the Tar Heels tied the score, Zeller quickly converted a three-point play to put the Hoosiers ahead again.

Oladipo's layup put Indiana on top 9-4, and a jumper by Jordan Hulls pushed the Hoosiers' lead to 13-7.

McAdoo, active in the first half, scored on a putback to trim Indiana's lead to 13-11.

Remy Abell's 3-pointer gave Indiana an 18-13 lead, but the Hoosiers couldn't pull away in the early going.

Brice Johnson's short baseline jumper gave the Tar Heels their first lead at 19-18, but Hulls quickly gave Indiana the lead back with a 3-pointer from the left corner.

Hulls drained a leaning jumper that put the Hoosiers up 29-27 with just over five minutes left in the first half. Sheehey followed with a floating layup that extended the margin to four, but McAdoo scored four quick points to tie the score again.

Indiana dominated from there to close the half. Zeller had two dunks, then a putback layup at the buzzer to put the Hoosiers up 46-37 at the break. Zeller and Oladipo had 13 points each at halftime.

North Carolina's collapse in the second half was similar to the one the Tar Heels had against Butler. North Carolina fell behind by 27 points against the Bulldogs before rallying to make the score respectable.

McAdoo said it won't be easy to become more consistent.

"It's going to take time," he said. "We've got a lot of young guys."
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