Indiana led 5-0 after one minute, 17-7 after five minutes, 26-9 after nine minutes and never trailed en route to a 76-67 victory over North Carolina in the final game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge late Wednesday.
That's called a wire-to-wire win.
And now it's time to put that loss at Fort Wayne in Indiana's rearview mirror forever and call it what it was -- just an unfortunate defeat in a road game to a solid team that should win the Summit League. Nothing more, nothing less. And this isn't revisionist history, by the way. I said last week on the Eye On College basketball podcast that enough people weren't noting how OG Anunoby played only 13 minutes vs. Fort Wayne. And I added that, either way, I still very much believed the Hoosiers were good and capable of winning the Big Ten for the second consecutive year.
So am I surprised by this result?
Great teams have a history of losing at Assembly Hall.
UNC is merely the latest.
Here are five takeaways from Indiana's victory over North Carolina:
1. Great start, strong finish
Indiana led by as many as 17 points in the first half, by 12 at the break and kept a comfortable distance between itself and the Tar Heels until UNC used a 9-1 run to cut its deficit to 61-57 with 4:52 left in regulation. At that point, things looked shaky for the Hoosiers. But they immediately countered with a 13-4 run to push the lead back to 74-61 with less than a minute remaining. And that, as they say, was that. Bottom line -- Indiana opened brilliantly and closed successfully. That's why IU is now 5-1 instead of 4-2 heading into Friday's game against SIU Edwardsville.
2. That's two terrific wins for Indiana already
Indiana's resume now features a neutral-court victory over No. 4 Kansas and a home victory over No. 3 North Carolina. So the Hoosiers currently have the nation's best two-win combo. And those KU and UNC victories are the type of victories that will greatly enhance Indiana's NCAA Tournament resume -- meaning, as Matt Norlander pointed out, the Hoosiers will have a real shot at a No. 1 seed in the Field of 68 as long as they close the non-league portion of their schedule triumphantly and then finish high enough in the Big Ten standings.
3. Anunoby was helped off the court late
It wasn't all great for Indiana. Anunoby, the sophomore star, landed awkwardly late in the game and had to be helped to the sideline. He never returned. And IU coach Tom Crean subsequently said Anunoby was unable to return because of an ankle issue of some sort. Indiana, for what it's worth, doesn't play another top-250 KenPom team until it meets Butler two weeks from Saturday. So Anunoby -- who was dunking like crazy before the injury -- has time to heal, if only because Indiana shouldn't need him to help it win another game for at least 16 days.
4. UNC's star didn't perform
Joel Berry had been fantastic through seven games, but his eighth outing was terrible. The junior point guard took 13 shots, missed 10 and finished with just eight points in 31 minutes. Yes, Berry also had eight assists. But that hardly overshadowed his otherwise poor play. Berry entered the contest shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range this season. But he was only 1-of-6 from beyond the arc at Assembly Hall -- which got so loud at times that it caused Roy Williams, North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach, to take something of a shot at UNC fans. Afterward, Williams said: "It was a wonderful crowd. Gosh, I'd like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin' Duke game."
5. Don't worry about North Carolina
I wrote early Wednesday that there was evidence to suggest North Carolina might be the nation's best team, and I still believe that despite the loss. Truth is, there's nothing shameful about UNC losing at IU. Good, and even great, visitors lose at Assembly Hall all the time, and here's proof: Indiana is 5-0 in its past five home games against top-three opponents. Perhaps fans of No. 1 Kentucky will remember this from 2011.
The Wildcats walked out of Assembly Hall losers that December day.
Four months later, they were national champs.
So relax, UNC fans.
Basically anybody would've lost Wednesday night at Indiana.
I honestly believe that.
So keep that in mind and refuse to panic. Because there's really nothing to actually panic about -- even if that image of Indiana alum Isiah Thomas holding up #CryingJordan will never go away.
Long time Michael Jordan rival Isiah Thomas held up a Crying Jordan head during Indiana's win over North Carolina. pic.twitter.com/zqySNXtJN1
-- Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) December 1, 2016