Why Indiana beat North Carolina in marquee ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup

BLOOMINGTON – A sold-out, raucous Assembly Hall bore witness to one of the best atmospheres and biggest nonconference wins in the recent history of its program Wednesday night, a 77-65 defeat of North Carolina as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Hoosiers were in control virtually throughout the game.

"We lost tonight because Indiana was better — plain and simple, period, the end," UNC coach Hubert Davis said.

UNC (5-3) trimmed its deficit to seven with just under seven minutes left, but Indiana (7-0) leaned on its pressure defense and effective offense on the interior to prevail.

The Hoosiers, who led by as many as 15 points in the second half, dominated on the interior with 50 points in the paint.

"I'm not discouraged, but I'm disappointed," Davis said. ". ... It hasn't wavered me at all on the type of kids that I'm around every day. I love 'em. I wouldn't pick another 18 guys than the ones we have in the locker room.

"I wouldn't pick another 18 guys to go to battle with the rest of the year. We're a good basketball team. We haven't played our best the last three games, but we're gonna get better, we're gonna improve and we're gonna bounce back - plain and simple, period, the end."

Here are three reasons why:

Hood-Schifino pulls Hoosiers up early, Johnson closes late

It’s probably not been the start to his career Jalen Hood-Schifino envisioned, at least offensively. His jumper has come and gone, and he entered play Wednesday just 25% from behind the 3-point line across Indiana’s first six games.

Any hesitation he felt, he didn’t show, scoring 12 points (one under his career high) just in the first half against the Tar Heels. Hood-Schifino scored No. 8 IU’s first seven of the night, giving them instant offense in an otherwise fractured start.

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On a night when all 30 NBA teams had scouts in the building for one of the most-anticipated nonconference games of the season, Hood-Schifino looked as good as any player on the floor. His 12 paired nicely with Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 10 in the first half, the Hoosiers (7-0) dominating No. 15 North Carolina around the rim and battling through foul trouble to lead 35-29 at intermission.

On the other side of the evening was his experienced counterpart. Where Hood-Schifino started hot, Xavier Johnson finished coolly, hitting 8-of-10 free throws on his way to 20 points. Many of those free throws came in 1-and-1 situations late in the second half, icing a game that never felt as close as it was.

Between them, the pair finished with 34 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. They were outstanding.

The battle down low

Indiana felt the best and worst of it Wednesday.

At one end, they dominated, to the tune of an eye-popping 50 paint points. Even against a North Carolina (5-3) team anchored by All-American Armando Bacot, the Hoosiers were inevitable around the rim. Jackson-Davis led the effort with 21 points, but Trey Galloway and Xavier Johnson chipped in, and the Hoosiers never stopped attacking the rim.

At the other, Indiana’s defense kept Bacot quiet, not even allowing him a made field goal in the first 18 minutes of the game. He finished with just 12 points, on 4-of-10 shooting.

But North Carolina’s athleticism and excellent rebound game got the Hoosiers in trouble. Virtually every available big man — Logan Duncomb sat out Wednesday’s game through illness — spent most of the night balancing fouls. It was to Indiana’s credit how well it defended through that, given how reliant the Hoosiers are on their rim protection. For one night, defense didn’t affect offense, and Indiana controlled the paint where they needed to.

Indiana's Trey Galloway (32) celebrates his dunk during the Indiana versus North Carolina men's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.
Indiana's Trey Galloway (32) celebrates his dunk during the Indiana versus North Carolina men's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

Fouls, fouls, fouls

They became North Carolina’s last real equalizer as they piled up in the second half. Going into the final media timeout of the night, Indiana led by 11 despite having been whistled for 13 more fouls, resulting in an 18-4 North Carolina advantage in points off free throws to that point.

Mike Woodson spent most of the night visibly frustrated with the officiating crew of Larry Scirotto, Courtney Green and Paul Szelc, adamant the visitors were getting a soft touch his team wasn’t receiving. His pleas, rightly or wrongly, fell on deaf ears, as did the repeated and resounding choruses of boos piled on from a rabid Assembly Hall crowd.

Without the difference, Wednesday’s game probably wouldn’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — have been so close, the Hoosiers stronger almost everywhere else. But it was a valuable lesson for Indiana, that while games might or might not be called this way in Big Ten play, there’s a very good chance they will be in March. IU has to adjust.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Why Indiana basketball beat North Carolina in ACC/Big Ten Challenge