When No. 18 North Carolina talked in the preseason of repeating last season’s run to the Final Four, it wasn’t supposed to include a repeat of last year’s losses in all of its marquee non-conference matchups.
The Tar Heels (5-3) are well on their way to duplicating that aspect after a 77-65 loss at Indiana Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Heels shot a season-low 33.9 percent in losing their third straight game.
As poorly as Carolina shot the ball, trailing by as many as 15 in the second half, it chipped away and had a chance to make it a two possession game because of IU fouls that piled up.
UNC guard Caleb Love made one of two free throws to cut the deficit to 59-52 with 6:39 left. The Heels had the ball and could have cut it closer. But Trey Galloway tipped the ball from behind when R.J. Davis went around a screen and received a cross-court pass for a layup.
With the Hoosiers ahead 61-52, Carolina did not get closer than eight in the remaining six minutes of the game.
UNC forward Armando Bacot injured his right ankle in the quadruple overtime loss to Alabama on Sunday, in which he sat out the final two overtimes unable to play on it. Shortly into the game on Wednesday, Bacot had a new injury to fight through.
Bacot appeared to injure his right shoulder on a shot that was partially blocked and was headed back to the locker room just four minutes into the game.
He returned, but was clearly hampered, missing his first five shots from the floor. He finally scored a basket with 1:35 left and had four points and seven rebounds in the first half.
Carolina’s problem offensively through much of its start to this season was not going through Bacot enough on the blocks. Against the Hoosiers, they were intent on establishing him inside and, because of his injuries, he couldn’t deliver. Bacot was more effective in the second half, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
UNC forward Pete Nance led the team with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He scored 11 points in a row and accounted for half of the Heels first 22 points, but only took five shots in the second half.
Love and Davis struggled shooting again from the field, combining to go 9-for-27 from the field.
IU freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino appeared to be headed to the list of guards who have torched the Heels recently. Iowa State’s Caleb Grill had 31 points and seven 3-pointers. Alabama’s Mark Sears had 24 points and seven 3s. Hood-Schifino started off the game scoring the Hoosiers first seven points and 12 of their first 19 while being defended by three different players.
His shots dried up when UNC put Leaky Black on him. He didn’t score for nearly the last nine minutes of the first half and finished with 14 points.
By then it didn’t matter because IU forward Trayce Jackson-Davis had warmed up. He was too strong for Nance to handle on the blocks and too agile for Bacot to keep up with, scoring 10 of his 21 points in the first half.