Video: Tom Crean reacts to win over North Carolina

Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 76-67 win over North Carolina on Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch his postgame comments below:

The Minute After: North Carolina

Thoughts on a 76-67 win over the Tar Heels:

It was a big night in Bloomington.

The students lined up for hours on end, fighting to get inside the building. Isiah Thomas and his 1981 championship teammates were in town for a celebration. Chicago Cub Kyle Schwarber played the role of honorary captain, while Jim Cornelison belted out the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The revamped Simon Skodjt Assemlby Hall got its national television debut.

It all added to another incredibly raucous environment surrounding Branch McCracken Court, and the Hoosiers responded in a big way.

There was no slow start. No non-communicative, lackadaisical defense. No offense barely moving the ball and not getting into the paint. Indiana attacked North Carolina — playing basketball better than just about any team in the country heading into this one — on both ends and threw the first decisive blow to set the tone. The Hoosiers led this one wire to wire, going up by as much as 17 in the first half while UNC pulled within four to make it interesting late in the second half.

That early spark by the Hoosiers was highlighted by a return to getting 3-point looks out of drives into the paint. They also completely dominated a great offensive rebounding team in North Carolina on the boards, while challenging shots and not letting UNC get much of anything easy on offense.

The Tar Heels were a deer in the headlights with the Hoosiers driving an 18-wheeler right at ’em.

“It was a wonderful crowd, gosh,” Roy Williams said after the game. “I’d like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin’ Duke game.”

North Carolina eventually found their inside game a bit with Kennedy Meeks (10 points) and Justin Jackson (game-high 21 points) hit some 3-pointers as UNC made its run in the second half. And the Tar Heels wound up winning the crucial offensive rebounding battle (31 OR% to 25 OR%) after Indiana completely owned that category in the first half.

But the Hoosiers also held early national player of the year candidate Joel Berry, who came into this one averaging 17.1 points, to just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. And the Hoosiers also held one of the better offenses in the country to only .94 points per possession.

Josh Newkirk (10 points, three assists), when he played his role, was huge. De’Ron Davis played excellent post defense (two blocks). He also worked his offensive game in the paint to hit a big bucket as Thomas Bryant sat for rest and the Tar Heels threatened late in the contest. Davis has been playing his way into shape since his late arrival in Bloomington so far, but looked very much like a player that is going to be a factor for the Hoosiers going forward.

James Blackmon Jr. (14 points, 3-of-6 from distance, nine rebounds) returned to form and played his heart out. He was on the floor diving for loose balls and hit a key 3-pointer with 3:42 to go to help keep the Tar Heels at distance.

After the game, he said there was “no question” he’d be on the floor tonight.

OG Anunoby played with a resolve and assertiveness that’s been missing since he went ill and scored a team-high 16 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting performance. He added two blocks and one ridiculous alley-oop finish.

This win marks Indiana’s 21st straight at home and brings its record against top 5 team at home to 7-1 since 2011-2012. Impressive stuff.

The Fort Wayne loss still stings a bit, and this team is not without flaws still. But nights like tonight, with a rollicking Assembly Hall faithful behind them, remind you just how special this team can be.

Video: Roy Williams, North Carolina players react to loss at Indiana

North Carolina coach Roy Williams coach met with the media following his team’s 76-67 loss to Indiana on Wednesday evening at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch his postgame comments below:

Reaction from Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks is available below, via Tar Heel Illustrated:

Video: IU players react to win over North Carolina

Robert Johnson, Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. met with the media following Indiana’s 76-67 win over North Carolina on Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch their postgame comments below:

At the buzzer: Indiana 76, North Carolina 67

Quick thoughts on Indiana’s 76-67 win over North Carolina:

How it happened: This one lived up to the billing. Students lined up outside of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall all afternoon. Kyle Schwarber and the 1981 national championship team were honored. Jim Cornelison amped up the crowd with a strong rendition of the National Anthem. And Indiana came out scorching hot, leading by as many as 17 points in the first half. It was the Hoosiers, not the Tar Heels, who were the aggressors from the onset. And save for a lapse in the second half where North Carolina cut the lead all the way down to four, Indiana controlled this game throughout. The end result was Indiana’s second signature win in the month of November over one of the nation’s elite teams.

Standout performance: Sophomore OG Anunoby was terrific, but his night was cut short as he went down with an apparent ankle injury late in the game following a dunk. In 29 minutes, the sophomore forward scored 16 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and pulled down five rebounds.

Statistics that stands out: Indiana limited the nation’s No. 3 offense, which came in averaging 1.19 points per possession, to .94 points per trip on Wednesday night. The Tar Heels managed an effective field goal percentage of just 44.3, nearly 12 percent below their season average coming in. UNC also managed just eight second chance points.

Final IU player stats:

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Final tempo-free stats:

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Video: 1981 Indiana national championship team reflects 35 years later

Members of Indiana’s 1981 national championship team, including Isiah Thomas, Jim Thomas, Chuck Franz, Randy Wittman, Ted Kitchel, Tony Brown, Landon Turner, Steve Risley, Glen Grunwald and Ray Tolbert reflect on their run to the title on Nov. 30, 2016 at Cook Hall in Bloomington.

Watch the full video of their remarks below:

What to Expect: North Carolina

Indiana will be looking for another resume-building win on Wednesday night when the Hoosiers host No. 3 North Carolina at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Tar Heels are 7-0 this season and won the Maui Invitational last week.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN at approximately 9:15 p.m. ET with Dave O’Brien, Dick Vitale and Allison Williams on the call:

Indiana can’t erase the sting of last Tuesday’s loss to Fort Wayne at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, but the Hoosiers can go a long way in solidifying their non-conference resume on Wednesday.

With a neutral court win against Kansas already on the books, a win over North Carolina would give Indiana another win that will stand out come March. Like the Jayhawks, the Tar Heels look like a team that will contend for a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

But as good as Tom Crean-coached teams have been at home against Associated Press top 5 teams (6-1 since the 2011-12 season), North Carolina comes to Bloomington with plenty of confidence. The Tar Heels just cruised to the Maui Invitational title by easily dispatching of Chaminade, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin. North Carolina has yet to play a game closer than 15 points. And with an experienced group of returnees that went to last year’s Final Four, UNC isn’t a group that will be easily rattled.

This will be, undoubtedly, one of the best atmospheres of the season in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

After three low-major opponents to open the home slate, the Indiana faithful are itching to see a high level opponent on Branch McCracken Court. In addition to the marquee matchup, there will be plenty of other festivities to energize the building. The 1981 National Championship team will be honored at halftime. Chicago Cub and IU baseball hero Kyle Schwarber is the honorary captain. And James Cornelison will sing the National Anthem. In late November, it doesn’t get better than this in college basketball.

MEET THE TAR HEELS

The Tar Heels lost two of their top three scorers from last year’s national runner-up team, but there’s been no drop off because everyone else of note is back.

North Carolina has a balanced offense through seven games with five guys averaging in double figures. The backcourt is captained by junior point guard Joel Berry, who has been as good as any backcourt player in the country so far. Berry’s 17.1 points per game leads the team and he’s shooting 47.1 percent on 3s. When Berry isn’t knocking down 3s or finishing 2s (67.7 percent), he’s getting to the line where he’s 28 of 30 this season.

Senior Nate Britt starts alongside Berry and is averaging 6.3 points per game on just 40 percent shooting from the field. His playing time is pretty evenly split with sophomore Kenny Williams, who is making 44.4 percent of his 3s off the bench.

The backcourt rotation is rounded out by a pair of freshmen in Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson. The 6-foot-2 Woods is an explosive athlete, but is just 2 of 11 from the field. The 6-foot-5 Robinson has also struggled from the field as he’s just 8 of 22 this season. Junior Theo Pinson, an elite defender, has yet to play this season as he rehabs from a foot injury.

As strong as North Carolina’s backcourt is with Berry, the frontcourt is what sets this team apart. Junior wing Justin Jackson is a tough matchup at 6-foot-8 and is the team’s second leading scorer at 15.4 points per game. Jackson can knock down the 3 if left open, but is very good at getting into the lane. He’s making close to 57 percent of his 2s.

In the post, the Tar Heels have no shortage of options. Senior Kennedy Meeks has steadily improved throughout his career and is currently the nation’s second best offensive rebounder according to Ken Pomeroy. Meeks hasn’t been an elite finisher so far this season (51.3 percent), but is averaging a double-double (13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds).

If Meeks wasn’t enough to worry about, Indiana will also have to contend with senior Isaiah Hicks, one of the nation’s most efficient bigs. The 6-foot-9 Hicks made 61.4 percent of his 2s last season and is at 66.2 percent this season through seven games.

Freshman Tony Bradley, who is 6-foot-11, is coming off the bench and is the team’s fourth leading scorer at 10.7 points per game. Bradley currently owns the nation’s best offensive rebounding percentage (24.4) according to Ken Pomeroy.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

The biggest question for Indiana in this game is pretty simple: How are the Hoosiers going to keep the Tar Heels out of the paint?

North Carolina emphasizes getting the ball inside and is getting just 22 percent of its points off of 3-pointers. Nationally, the average right now is 30 percent. Not only is Indiana going to need a strong game out of Thomas Bryant, this is a contest where OG Anunoby, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis are all going to need to contribute defensively and on the boards.

Both teams are among the nation’s elite on the offensive boards, but Indiana has been the better defensive rebounding team so far. Opponents are rebounding just 22.5 percent of their missed shots against the Hoosiers, while North Carolina is allowing opponents to grab 29.1 percent of their misses.

Turnovers also loom large for Indiana as North Carolina will turn careless mistakes into dunks on the other end of the floor. If Indiana is going to push the tempo like it typically does, it must outperform what we’ve seen so far this season in terms of turnovers.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Pomeroy likes North Carolina by three, Sagarin likes the Heels by 4.5 and the Vegas line favors UNC by four after opening at 4.5. Indiana has a 20-game winning streak at Assembly Hall and a solid start would go a long way in getting the crowd even more into the game.

To win, Indiana is going to need to defend without fouling in the post, limit second chance points and probably knock in double digit 3s. North Carolina is not going to deviate from its game plan, which is to get the ball into the paint for a high percentage look and then crash the glass relentlessly.

The health of James Blackmon Jr. has been a major topic of discussion after he missed Sunday’s game against Mississippi Valley State, but the junior guard appears on track to play tonight. Indiana needs Blackmon Jr. to be the player he was against Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic rather than the guy who struggled against Fort Wayne last week.

Last year’s loss at Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge was a humbling experience for Indiana, but ultimately proved to be a turning point as the Hoosiers ripped off 13 straight wins afterward. North Carolina has been one of the nation’s most impressive teams through the first three weeks of the season and has a legitimate case to be called the best team in the land right now. Like the Kansas game, this will be another measuring stick type contest for the Hoosiers as they build toward the start of Big Ten play in just four weeks.

(Photo credit: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images North America)



Indiana prepares for toughest test yet: North Carolina

Indiana will need to be at its best to beat No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, James Blackmon Jr. should be ready to suit up after missing Sunday’s contest with a left knee injury.

“If James continues to progress the way he has, then he’ll be available tomorrow night,” Tom Crean said Tuesday.

Even with Blackmon back, the margin for error for Indiana will be slim. The Hoosiers have struggled when it comes to taking care of the ball, committing at least 15 turnovers in all five games.

“We need to make sure we’re playing smart, we’re playing solid, we’re not trying to make things that aren’t there,” Crean said. “We’re not good enough to do that.”

The Tar Heels have been far better at valuing possessions, turning the ball over on over four percent fewer possessions than Indiana (23.4 for IU to 19.0 for UNC, per KenPom).

Another strength of Roy Williams’ team is its ability to crash the glass. North Carolina has an offensive rebounding percentage that ranks second in the nation at 46.6 percent, per KenPom.

“They cover the weakside boards every time,” Crean said. “If we had clips to show our guys where they don’t, we’d show them. But we haven’t found any.”

In fact, the Tar Heels have the two best offensive rebounders in the country. 6-foot-11 freshman Tony Bradley and 6-foot-10 senior Kennedy Meeks rank first and second in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and both have had games this season with at least seven offensive rebounds.

But the Hoosiers have far more to worry about than just the inside presence of the Tar Heels.

6-foot junior guard Joel Berry II was recently named ACC Player of the Week and is in the early conversation for national player of the year.

Berry has scored at least 18 points in all but three games, and in the Maui Invitational final against Wisconsin, he put up 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

As good as Berry is on the offensive end, North Carolina coach Roy Williams believes the biggest improvement in his game has come on the other end of the floor.

“He got a lot better defensively last year as a sophomore,” Williams told the media Tuesday in Chapel Hill. “I think he has taken another step this year. Part of that is not only understanding how important that is to his game, but I think the better he does defensively, that encourages him and makes him better on the offensive end.”

The list of standout players on the Tar Heels doesn’t end there. Junior Justin Jackson and seniors Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt have also played significant roles in the team’s 7-0 start.

Simply put, Indiana will have its hands full on Branch McCracken Court.

Anunoby still recovering

OG Anunoby may have scored a career-high 21 points on Sunday, but Crean says he is still recovering from the stomach illness that contributed to his poor play against Fort Wayne.

“I don’t think (Anunoby) is over it,” Crean said. “But I think he’s gotta play better. I don’t think he’s at that point yet. I think it really knocked him out last week.”

At times on Sunday, Anunoby looked fatigued and far less explosive than fans are accustomed to. Although he probably won’t be 100 percent, Indiana will need him to be as close to it as possible if they want to come away from Wednesday night with another marquee win.



Video: Crean, Indiana players preview North Carolina

Tom Crean, Juwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant and Josh Newkirk met with the media on Tuesday evening at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to preview Indiana’s game against North Carolina in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

Watch both press conferences below:



Video: Roy Williams, Joel Berry preview Indiana

North Carolina coach Roy Williams and junior guard Joel Berry met with the media on Tuesday afternoon in Chapel Hill to preview Wednesday’s game against Indiana in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

Watch both press conferences below: