This week, Indiana made the top 10 for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and its first Test came against No. 18 North Carolina in a nationally televised game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The 10th-ranked Hoosiers passed their test against the Tar Heels with flying colors and will look to remain unbeaten Saturday afternoon when they visit Rutgers for their Big Ten opener in Piscataway, NJ
Indiana (7-0) opens conference play after putting on an impressive defensive display in Wednesday’s 77-65 win over preseason No. 1 in the country North Carolina.
The Hoosiers held UNC at 33.9 percent shooting from the field and have yet to allow an opponent to shoot more than 43.8 percent. It was the sixth time Indiana had conceded fewer than 70 points.
“I just thought our defense was very limiting, like an anaconda,” Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “It just sucked the life out of UNC early on. They couldn’t get big shots early on and we kind of rode it to the end of the game.”
Indiana also forced North Carolina to miss nine of 15 layup attempts and 13 of 18 3-point attempts, marking the fifth time its defense allowed less than 30 percent from 3-point range.
“It was an absolute team effort,” said Indiana coach Mike Woodson. “Defensively we were solid from start to finish.”
Jackson-Davis amassed 21 points and 10 rebounds while also helping defensively against North Carolina star Armando Bacot, who was held to 12 points.
Jackson-Davis scored 20 points for the third time this season but also had plenty of help as Indiana placed four in doubles.
Xavier Johnson added 20 and shoots 56.3 percent after hitting 40.6 percent last season. Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino contributed a season-high 14 points, while Trey Galloway added 11 points after being injured in his last three games and not training in that span.
Rutgers (5-2) opens conference play after a completely different experience in Wednesday’s ACC/Big 10 Challenge. The Scarlet Knights suffered a 68-61 loss in Miami as they conceded the last seven points, remaining scoreless for the final 2:45 and squandering an 11-point lead.
“This is a learning opportunity,” said Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell. “I’m just excited to see how this team is developing. I know it’s not the result I wanted today, but I also knew we were playing against one of the most talented teams in the country.”
Among the developments for Rutgers to look forward to is Clifford Omoruyi, who is averaging 16.7 points and 9.9 rebounds after 16 total and nine on Wednesday. Another bright spot was Caleb McConnell, who finished his second game at 16 after suffering a knee injury.
The Scarlet Knights were missing a fourth straight game from Paul Mulcahy with a shoulder injury and without him they made seven of their 15 turnovers in the last 12 minutes as they went 28-11 and missed 16 of their last 19 shots.
“We had chances and are good enough to win,” said Pikiell. “Hopefully we’ll get him back soon, but when you lose the best assistant in the Big Ten, it’s not easy to replace him.”