Race Thompson steps up, wears crown of cotton in hard-fought win over Little Rock
In a game that didn’t go as smoothly as Indiana would have liked, one of the ugliest parts of the outing against Little Rock came when Race Thompson got up off the floor with blood dripping from his forehead.
Struck in the head by an errant elbow while going up for a rebound in the first half, Thompson hit the floor of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall hard enough to quiet the energetic crowd. As he got to his feet, a bright spot of red adorned the crown of his head.
With a towel to his forehead, Thompson exited to the locker room, leaving everyone wondering what his status was, and what it could mean for Indiana for the rest of the night. At that point in the game, Thompson already scored four points and was causing problems for Little Rock around the net.
Continuing his style of play from the Hoosiers’ bouts with Xavier and Miami (OH), Thompson attacked the rim with a fervor that made some question what it had ever done to him. His early buckets drew some of the largest cheers of the night, and he was embracing the role he was playing for the team.
“Out of all the players we’ve had, he’s made a major jump for us,” Woodson told Don Fischer in the beginning of November on his weekly radio show. “That means he’s put the time and work in.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis sat out of Wednesday’s game for precautionary reasons, and eyes turned to Thompson to pick up in his absence, especially around the basket. Credited as the two leaders on the team, both are expected to carry the team when needed.
And while the Hoosiers may have missed Jackson-Davis’ presence at times, everyone stepped up and filled the hole with relative ease. Thompson was one of the biggest to do so.
“You’ve seen what we can do with or without him,” Thompson said about Jackson-Davis’ absence. “That’s why this team is special.”
Thompson showed his capability of doing whatever he needed to when he returned to the game, just minutes after leaving holding that bloody towel, with the same energy and tenacity he has had all season.
The second half marked the big turning point for Thompson, and in turn, the entire Indiana team, as they eventually cruised to an 87-68 win Wednesday night.
The symbol of the game? A white headband.
Instantly recognizable from even the highest seats of Assembly Hall, Thompson took the floor in the second half with a crown of cotton. By the end of the game, he had more than earned it.
Thompson scored 16 points in 16 minutes in the second half, and finished the night 7-for-8 from the floor. What the headband did for him is unknown, but it certainly didn’t hinder him in any way.
Anoint him as the leading scorer, the most experienced player, the toughest player, or even just the best at drawing fouls. Whatever the category, Thompson’s crown — cotton as it was — was fully deserved.
His ferociousness at the rim was fueled even more as Xavier Johnson grew into the game to consistently supply the forward with near-perfect passes. The two provided most of the spirit for the Hoosiers in the second half, both seemingly minutes away from hitting double-double marks.
“I think me and X, we got into a little ball screen thing,” Thompson said. “It was really just X playing, and he made the plays.”
Johnson left the floor with nine points and 10 assists, and Thompson racked up 20 points and eight rebounds to lead Indiana in both categories.
In the four games prior to Indiana meeting Little Rock, Thompson scored a combined 20 points.
Wednesday marked the first time Thompson has put up at least 20 points since he set his career-high of 22 in November 2020. Last season, Thompson averaged 11 points per game, in what was his best season as a Hoosier.
Thompson proved his undeniable toughness by standing strong through fouls, going up for rebounds and continuing to drive in with the ball. In a game where he had the perfect opportunity to hit his stride, he did just that.
And he did it with a white headband.
(Photo credit: IU Athletics)
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