In a battle of two iconic programs, No. 10 Indiana men’s basketball defeated the No. 18 University of North Carolina 77-65 on Wednesday night. Under the weight of heavy expectations, the Hoosiers looked largely dominant against the preseason No. 1 team.
Surely, this was an emphatic statement win for Indiana.
“It’s not a statement, man,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game.
Still, I highly doubt fans will see this as anything less than proof of how great the Hoosiers can be. Indiana led for nearly 27 consecutive minutes to end the night, with four players scoring in double figures.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the Hoosiers got their spark from freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. Hood-Schifino has performed commendably throughout the season, but his inexperience showed in a meager 3-point performance on the road at Xavier University on Nov. 18. Early against North Carolina, he looked every bit the five-star recruit, accounting for 12 of Indiana’s first 19 points.
Hood-Schifino’s shooting cooled off a bit as the night wore on, but by then the usual suspects had taken over.
Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and graduate student guard Xavier Johnson combined for 41 points, more than half of the Hoosiers’ scoring total. The Tar Heels are very strong and very fast, but Wednesday night none of them seemed as strong as Jackson-Davis or as fast as Johnson.
If it wasn’t Johnson dropping in a seemingly impossible floater or Jackson-Davis slamming the ball through the rim, it was junior guard Trey Galloway sprinting in transition to deposit a contested layup. Slowly but surely, the points piled on to give Indiana a double-digit lead.
To be clear, the Hoosiers didn’t play a perfect game offensively. It just didn’t matter.
Though Indiana shot a pitiful 23% from 3-point range, the team outscored North Carolina 50-24 in the paint. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers locked down the Tar Heels possession after possession on defense. Even with Indiana recording 21 personal fouls — each of which I assure you the student section responded to with utmost civility and understanding — North Carolina never really regained its footing.
Honestly, it was pretty much everything a home crowd could have hoped for. By the end of the night, you could have crossed off nearly every space on the Indiana men’s basketball home game bingo card.
Chants calling the opposing team’s best player overrated? Check. Cries of indignation every time the referees dared to call a foul on the Hoosiers? Check. The greatest electronic dance hits of the early 2010’s belting through the speaker system? Check, and pray I never again forget how much of a banger “Danza Kuduro” is.
We may look back on this game as an overhyped matchup against an overrated North Carolina team. The Tar Heels entered Wednesday night on a two-game losing streak, and star senior forward Armando Bacot Jr. was clearly battling an injury.
But again, I do not expect Hoosier fans to care at all. This is Indiana basketball we’re talking about.
It’s showing up to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall seven hours before tip-off. It’s desperately trying to stay warm with a combination of heat lamps, positive thinking and a half-empty handle of undisclosed liquid. It’s finally getting inside the arena after you’ve nearly lost feeling in your hands and feet, only to be directed to balcony section HH because there were 8,000 people who either love Indiana basketball more than you or care even less about hypothermia.
After all, in 49 states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana. And that looks like it might be frostbite, my guy. Definitely get it checked out soon — right after you finish celebrating.