In a more-challenging-than-expected 85-71 win over Portland State, Indiana made up for its defensive miscues with balanced scoring.
From top to bottom of the roster, about every guy who went in made an impact. Of Indiana’s 10 healthy scholarship players, nine of them played and eight scored. Four Hoosiers reached double digits in scoring as well.
The usual scoring leaders of Al Durham and Justin Smith led the way with 18 and 16 points, respectively, but it was the often-forgotten member of Indiana’s 2017 recruiting class, Race Thompson, who arguably made the most impact.
The high-energy hustle and unexpected scoring burst Thompson provided were necessary in the Hoosiers securing their second win of the season.
“Race in his 16 and a half minutes was very impactful,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “Offensive rebounding, huge. Some of his baskets we needed because we were playing ugly for most of the game offensively.”
Playing the second-most minutes off the bench with 16, Thompson was highly efficient. He was just short of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Both were career highs for the redshirt sophomore.
What is more impressive than his nine rebounds alone was the fact that he had more offensive rebounds (five) than defensive (four). Keeping possessions alive and getting extra shots via Thompson’s effort on the glass for the Hoosiers was a needed boost and oftentimes how he scored his points.
Thompson’s stellar rebounding was crucial for Indiana. In a game where the team’s defense struggled, hitting the glass made up for it. Indiana outrebounded Portland State 41-24.
Thompson’s Indiana career has been a rollercoaster to say the least. Originally part of the class of 2018, he reclassified in the summer of 2017 to get to Bloomington earlier where he took a redshirt year.
Last year, in his first season seeing the court, Thompson battled injury and illness all year which limited him to nine games of action. Other than a standout defensive performance against Ethan Happ in the win over Wisconsin, Thompson’s role was very minimal.
In his redshirt sophomore season, it’s all starting to come together for Thompson. The health and ability are there, and now his role is present as well.
For the first time in his collegiate career, he has found a bit of consistency. In each of Indiana’s games thus far he has recorded at least 15 minutes off the bench and six rebounds.
More opportunity is available for Thompson too if he keeps up his positive contributions on the defensive end. Miller made it known he was unhappy with the team’s defensive effort.
“Right now, for me, this team defensively is not there yet,” Miller said. That’s got to be our quest. With this team we got to find a way to get better fast on defense.”
As long as Thompson stays in good health, his role and responsibilities should only expand. Rebounding and guarding the post will always be his strengths and priorities, but more offensive opportunities could come in time too.
For Thompson, this is one good game, but merely a small portion of the big picture.
“I felt real good out there today,” Thompson said of his performance. “Had a good game. Just onto the next one. Excited to keep it going.”