For a while it looked like the tryptophan hit Indiana before her turkey meal. The Hoosiers eventually woke up and avoided a Thanksgiving week fuss.
Senior Captain Race Thompson scored 20 points, 16 of them after the break, and led No. 11 Indiana (5-0) to an 87-68 win over Little Rock (2-4). Xavier Johnson complemented Thompson’s performance with 10 assists, equaling his Indiana record.
Back in the Assembly Hall for the first time since November 10th Mike Woodson started johnson, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Miller KoppThomspon and Malik Renau. Before the game, IU shut out the preseason All-American Trayce Jackson Davis and Trey Galloway for precautionary reasons. Anthony Leal also missed the competition with an ankle injury.
This gave Reneau an opportunity, and he benefited from the start. Reneau scored six of IU’s first 10 points. Thompson, one of IU’s captains that season, scored the other four as the Hoosiers maintained their dominance of the color.
Little Rock bothered Indiana with their fast playing style. Coached by former NBA champion Darrell Walker, the Trojans came into play with the 43rd fastest adjusted pace in the country, according to KenPom, and it showed.
DJ Smith converted a fast break layup to put Little Rock 16-9. Then DeAntoni Gordon and Myron Gardner found ways to reduce the deficit to six. A three-pointer from Jordan Jefferson left Little Rock just five points behind IU.
In those early parts of the first half, Indiana suffered two more injuries that caused the starters to abandon the game. Reneau fell on his lower back trying to steal, and he went to the locker room with an athletic trainer Tim Garl for the treatment. Thompson was hit in the face with an accidental elbow aimed at a ricochet that caused a cut in his facial area. Both players would eventually return.
IU’s bench picked up the slack during Reneau and Thompson’s absences. CJ Gunn, Logan Duncomb, Jordan Geronimo and Kaleb Banks All provided effective energy to unlock a 15-point advantage.
Geronimo scored six points in the first half and made all three field goal attempts. Duncomb hit inside to get on the board and then threw a dunk for his 4th point of the night. Gunn contributed with a basket and a blocked shot. The audience in the assembly hall gave a hearty round of applause as Woodson brought the starters back into play.
Those cheers quickly turned to groans as the Trojans fought their way back into the competition. Gordon converted a layup, then Smith hit consecutive threes to cut the lead to seven points. Little Rock would stay within reach.
It didn’t get much better after half time. Indiana and Little Rock traded baskets before Miller Kopp took matters into his own hands. Kopp, chasing points in the first half, nailed three three-pointers to put IU’s lead back in comfortable territory. Kopp is now 12/23 (52%) from three this season.
After the Trojans had to respect the long-range shot, Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson found opportunities to cause damage from within the arc. Thompson, wearing a headband after elbowing his face, capitalized on gaps in Little Rock’s defense, one of the worst in the country according to KenPom.
The Trojans’ pace perhaps caused some track fatigue as Indiana began to pull away. The depth of the IU also played a crucial role. The Hoosiers were in bonus with 14:08 to go and IU achieved double bonus status with 12:09 to go.
As soon as the Hoosiers went to the free throw line, they converted. Johnson and Tamar Bates Everyone made both free throws in the second half, while Thompson hit all six of his free throw attempts after the break.
Thompson’s 20 points represents the second-highest total in his career, behind the 22 he scored against Providence at the 2020 Maui Invitational in Asheville, NC.
IU’s next regular season game is Friday against Jackson St., back at Assembly Hall. It’s going fast as the game time is scheduled for 12:30pm ET on BTN.
Featured image: Doug McSchooler/Associated Press