BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — They’ve made a habit of knocking off top-three teams in recent years, but the Indiana Hoosiers had to learn a lesson in togetherness before their latest eyebrow-raising triumph.Eight days ago, they were the guys ranked third and undefeated. They were confident and feeling good about themselves. They showed up uninspired for an in-state road trip against an unknown in Fort Wayne and suffered the consequences in a stunning overtime loss.No. 13 Indiana reclaimed that enthusiastic edge with a collective effort from the outset in a 76-67 home triumph over No. 3 North Carolina Wednesday night.The ACC/Big Ten Challenge provided the Hoosiers (5-1) an ideal opportunity to make a primetime statement on national television. This was the same squad that had opened the season with an overtime win over No. 3 Kansas at Hawaii. This is the program that since 2011-12 has defeated six top-three foes, which ties Duke for most in the country.”When we played Kansas, we took every blow in that game. We delivered blows,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean. “We had great togetherness and great energy with one another. In the Fort Wayne game, we got quiet. We got back on our heels. And nobody took control of the team. When you don’t have an individual leader, it’s got to be collective.”North Carolina (7-1) never led, nor was Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams’ team able to make it a one-possession game late.”They were more aggressive in every phase of the game,” said Williams, whose Tar Heels’ season-low scoring output was 25 points below average. “We backed up, they challenged us, and we backed up.”The Hoosiers, with not one senior in the lineup, were quicker off the dribble to create open shots and shared the ball well. Five Hoosiers scored in double digits, led by junior forward OG Anunoby’s 16 points, his last basket an emphatic two-handed dunk for an 11-point lead with just under two minutes remaining.”We just wanted to bring the energy with us,” said Hoosiers junior guard James Blackmon Jr., who had 14 points and nine rebounds. “The fans really helped us with the energy.”A sellout crowd of 17,222 included fans who had camped out the night before at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. They reveled in the Hoosiers jumping on the Tar Heels for a seven-point lead by the first TV timeout.”You feel it before you even step on the floor for the pregame warm-ups,” said Indiana sophomore center Thomas Bryant, who had 12 points and seven rebounds.North Carolina trailed by 12 at halftime and didn’t get closer than four points in the final minutes. These weren’t the same Tar Heels who had trailed for just 16 seconds in seven wins.”We were not ready for the intensity and enthusiasm, or anything you want to talk about in the first half,” Williams said.The Tar Heels shot 39.3 percent (24-of-61). The Hoosiers shot 48.1 percent (25-of-52).North Carolina junior guard Joel Berry II, a two-time ACC Player of the Week, made just 3-of-13 shots and finished with eight points, nine below his team-leading average. Junior Justin Jackson led the visitors with a game-high 21 points.
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