BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Maybe Roy Williams should have watched Tuesday night’s game on two screens.
On one, he could have dissected what went wrong with No. 14 North Carolina.
On the other, he might have actually enjoyed seeing No. 1 Indiana play basketball its way.
Cody Zeller finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey both added 19 points in a stunning 83-59 rout in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“If you like Indiana basketball, you had to enjoy tonight, and I like Indiana basketball but not nearly as much as I like North Carolina basketball,” Williams said somberly. “We’ve got to get things going a little bit better together.”
The good news is that the Tar Heels might not get another dose of Indiana basketball any time soon.
A week ago, North Carolina (5-2) trailed by 29 points before falling to two-time national runner-up Butler in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
In North Carolina’s first game back on the mainland, it happened again, this time against the Hoosier State’s best team. Indiana (7-0) led by as many as 32 points during a dreadful second half in which North Carolina shot 27.8 percent from the field and was 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
“I like my team, I don’t like the way we played tonight,” Williams said. “For us, it was a tough night to say the least.”
Zeller and his teammates were ready to send the college basketball world a message Tuesday: America’s No. 1 team really is America’s best team.
Did they ever.
They gave up only three points in the first 8 minutes of the second half, and offensively, the Hoosiers were their usual balanced selves.
Zeller was 8 of 13 from the field with four blocks, one steal and an assist. Oladipo and Sheehey were both 8 of 12 from the field. Senior guard Jordan Hulls was 5 of 8, including three 3-pointers, and finished with 13 points, eight assists and two steals.
The dominant performance might even silence some of the murmurs No. 2 Duke was closing the gap with Indiana (7-0), murmurs the Hoosiers were aware of when they took the court Tuesday night.
“It was a huge statement,” Sheehey said. “We prepared for this game for a couple of weeks now. You saw the score, we played hard, we played well, we played together and when we do that, we play well.”
Dexter Strickland led the Tar Heels with 14 points, Marcus Paige had 11 and James Michael McAdoo had 10 points and nine rebounds for North Carolina, who was missing sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, who stayed home with a sprained left knee.
There was a bigger problem, though. North Carolina couldn’t figure out how to defend Zeller, one of this season’s favorites to be the national player of the year.
“Boy, I would love to watch them play if it wasn’t against my team,” Williams said. “You look down the lineup and Cody Zeller, he’s family to begin with, he’s really a load to handle, and two other guys that I didn’t even hear of when they were in high school, they just kicked our rear ends.”
The game had been billed as one of this season’s showcase events. For 16 minutes, it lived up to the hype.
Zeller changed everything with two flurries.
By setting high picks and drawing post players outside, it opened up the lanes for his cutting and slashing teammates who wasted no time exploiting the holes in the Carolina defense.
Sheehey broke the tie with a layup. Oladipo drew a foul and made two free throws. Zeller beat the Tar Heels down the court on a fast break, and then Zeller closed the 15-6 run by grabbing Yogi Ferrell’s errant layup and nimbly tossing it into the basket with less than 1 second on the clock. That gave Indiana a 46-37 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Hoosiers were out to prove something else — that they could defend.
Over the first 8 minutes, North Carolina managed only three points, the tip-in and a free throw.
Zeller and Oladipo, meanwhile, combined for seven points in the opening 13-0 blitz that put Indiana ahead 59-37, and North Carolina never challenged again as the Hoosiers won their 34th consecutive home game in November against a team that was supposed to give it all kinds of trouble.
“It’s cool,” Oladipo said when asked about the margin of victory over a program like North Carolina. “I mean, we’ve been working really hard and you guys know as well as I know that this program over the last couple of years was really struggling and we wanted to get it back on top. So to get a win like that, it’s a humbling experience.”