You could see the energy throughout Bloomington in the days leading up to the matchup.
Fans in cream and crimson, messages projected on the side of Assembly Hall, the memorial stadium jumbotron doing the same, baby blue buses arriving outside of nearby hotels and Jon Rothstein tweeting even more than he usually does.
Truly, you would have to live under a rock to avoid the news that the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team, last year’s national runner up, was coming to town.
The last time Indiana fans saw UNC in town, it was on countless televisions as the team fell to Kansas in the NCAA Division-I championship game. So now they’ve seen them lose a hyped matchup against a historically successful program from afar and up close.
When this matchup was announced, the Tar Heels were the presumptive No. 1 team in the nation. Then they actually were. Then Iowa State happened. Alabama too. Very suddenly, they very much weren’t.
Try as UNC might, they just haven’t been able to break the ice on a convincing win.
Did UNC dropping in the polls like a sad rock being kicked into a shallow pool zap away any of Indiana fans’ enthusiasm?
They turned out in droves, clad in white thanks to the night’s theme. They camped out around Assembly Hall the night before, pulling tarps over themselves due to a no-tent policy and huddling in sleeping bags to stave off the cold.
If you think temperatures of around 28.4º Fahrenheit with a bit of added wind chill are cold, just wait until you see the Tar Heels shooting 34% on the night.
Indeed, the students that ended up filling every open space they could seemed to bring the chill with them.
The Tar Heels simply couldn’t find an answer all night, most open space seemed to last all of 0.1 seconds before one of Race Thompson, Xavier Johnson, Jalen Hood-Schifino or [insert literally any other guy] appeared to close it off.
On the other end, Indiana had no trouble finding the rim with a whopping 50 points in the paint compared to UNC’s 24. That margin more than made up for the Hoosiers’ shooting from the perimeter, which was a relatively underwhelming 23% on 13 shots throughout the night.
Now I’m going to insert a picture of Trayce Jackson-Davis that I personally found quite amusing when looking for the best image to attach to this article:
I mean, look at him. Is he angry? Is he going to crush the ball in his hands? That’d be inconvenient but it’s not like UNC was statistically likely score with it, so would it really matter?
Jackson-Davis had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Pretty good!
Mike Woodson also seemed to be thoroughly in control throughout the game. Hubert Davis was constantly on his heels, looking for a way to claw back into the lead. The officiating helped him a good deal, with the Tar Heels shooting 27 free throws to the Hoosiers’ 18.
But Woodson just had an answer for everything, putting the Hoosiers in a position to score on just about every possession while the Tar Heels played Tantalus as the lead just. Kept. Getting. Away.
Between the fans and the Tar Heels’ shooting, you’d think I’d be out of cold references by now, huh?
Well you, dear reader, would be wrong.
Xavier Johnson gave me a reason for yet another as he, ice in his veins, seemed to make every free throw ever to protect Indiana’s lead in the closing minutes.
It took just 40 minutes for the Hoosiers to send the Tar Heels to the cooler
The cold, which filled Indiana’s students with willpower, the need to yell at UNC and probably also some DoorDashed Starbucks, worked in the Hoosiers’ favor and to the Tar Heels detriment.
All in all, Indiana had a pretty cool night.
(I’m so sorry)