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No Challenge: Hoosiers cruise to easy win against North Carolina

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BLOOMINGTON — Indiana coach Tom Crean must have given his team a simple instruction when it faced North Carolina on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall: attack.

From the opening tap to the final buzzer, the Hoosiers went full-speed ahead at the powerful Tar Heels, who couldn’t keep Crean’s players from driving into the paint. Indiana’s 83-59 victory in front of a rocking, sold-out crowd of 17,472 was verification of its No. 1 ranking, and it was accomplished against a team many expect to be in the top 10 by season’s end.

North Carolina (5-2) simply couldn’t match Indiana’s aggressiveness and passion.

At the 4:14 mark of the first half, the game was tied at 31-31. Then, with sophomore Cody Zeller leading the charge, the Hoosiers (7-0) went on a 32-8 tear that carried into the second half and left North Carolina coach Roy Williams searching for answers.

On this night, he had none. Indiana continued to heap misery on the visitors with the crowd making it impossible to hear with an airplane-engine noise level.

By the time Christian Watford drove past two Tar Heels in the paint for a tomahawk, one-handed slam, it was 80-49. Indiana was treating North Carolina as if it was Indiana Wesleyan or Bryant, earlier season opponents that had been destroyed at Assembly Hall.

With two of the nation’s top players on display, Zeller and North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo, it was Zeller who couldn’t be denied. McAdoo had just 10 points and wasn’t a factor after halftime.

Zeller, on the other hand, was all-world. Four times he beat everyone down the court to take a pass and dunk. He finished with 20 points. But it wasn’t just his offensive game that made the difference.

Before the contest, Crean said that Indiana needed to be at its best rebounding and getting back on defense if it wanted to beat fast-breaking North Carolina. Zeller was dominant in the paint, blocking four shots and finishing with eight rebounds.

It was North Carolina that couldn’t get back to defend the Hoosiers, who were facing their first ranked team of the season. With Indiana having such a powerful game in the paint, it opened up the perimeter as North Carolina’s defense collapsed to help. Indiana guard Jordan Hulls finished with 13 points and three 3-pointers.

Indiana forward scored 19 points as did guard Victor Oladipo.

The first 20 minutes set the tone for the Hoosiers, who took every possession right at North Carolina. Indiana led 46-37 at intermission, and it would have been more if the Hoosiers had finished better.

They shot 46.3 percent in the first half, but it should have been an even higher percentage as they missed several driving layups. Even so, they established an aggression that had Williams calling time outs to figure out a strategy.

{/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”} {/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}Williams couldn’t have been happy that three times in the first half, Zeller beat his defenders down the court for a breakaway dunk. That’s the type of game North Carolina was supposed to play.{/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”} {/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}Indiana made it tough for the Tar Heels to get their own break running as it won the first-half rebounding battle 22-17.{/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”} {/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}Zeller had a monster half with 13 points, four rebounds and three blocks. He was a force in the paint on every possession that he played. Knowing that he needed Zeller’s legs fresh in the second half, Crean even sat him for a four-minute stretch.{/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”} {/div} {div style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}The other force in the opening half was Indiana freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. Ferrell had four of his six assists in the first half, and Indiana was at its aggressive best when he was leading the charge. Time after time, Ferrell drove and lane and then dished the ball to open players.{/div} {/div}

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