BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The first shot Race Thompson took Wednesday night bloodied his left temple.
He spent the rest of the game counterpunching.
Thompson scored a season-high 20 points and had eight rebounds to help No. 11 Indiana beat Little Rock 87-68, finishing the game with a headband stained red from the inadvertent blow he took 11 1/2 minutes into the game.
“I don’t even know (what happened),” the fifth-year senior said. “I think it was somebody’s elbow, but I’ve got a real big gash.”
The Hoosiers needed everything they could get out of Thompson especially wiht preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis out because of a sore back and Jackson-Davis’ replacement, Malik Reneau flirting with foul trouble through most of the second half.
Thompson delivered with a near-perfect night — making seven of eight shots and all six free throws to help the short-handed Hoosiers go 5-0 for the second straight season.
Reneau had 10 points and six rebounds, most in the first half. Xavier Johnson had nine points and 10 assists.
Myron Gardner, the reigning Ohio Valley Conference player of the week, had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Trojans. D.J. Smith scored 20 points to lead Little Rock (2-4), which has lost all three in the series and is 3-13 against Big Ten foes.
But they ran out of steam late.
“To compete and come back and really stick around the whole basketball game till the last seven or eight minutes. I thought it was something good to build on,” Little Rock coach Darrell Walker said.
Indiana first seized control with a 15-5 run that started with a four-point possession when Thompson was inadvertently hit in the head by Gardner and Flagrant 1 was called. Thompson went to the locker room for medical attention and when the run ended, Indiana led 37-22.
But Little Rock cut the deficit to 39-30 at halftime and scored the first three points of the second half when Thompson donned a new headband. The Trojans stayed close until Indiana went on a 12-3 to rebuild 60-45 lead and after Little Rock again closed to seven, the Hoosiers sealed it with a 14-1 spurt.
“Race and Xavier were great tonight,” Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino said. “They made plays and really stepped up and led us tonight.”
Little Rock: Three days after rallying from an 18-point deficit to beat Jackson State, the Trojans gave Indiana an unexpectedly strong battle for 35 minutes. Little Rock is off to a solid start but coach Darrell Walker will have to wait till later this week to collect career win No. 100.
Indiana: Without Jackson-Davis and playing for the third time in six days, the Hoosiers struggled a bit to put this one way. But they never trailed, stayed in control most of the game and kept their perfect record intact.
Indiana has one more winnable home game this week and a 6-0 start could put the Hoosiers in the top 10 for the first time since 2017 — just in time for next week’s showdown with No. 1 North Carolina. They’ll just need some help from teams in the Thanksgiving Day tournaments.
Friendly foe, Chapter 2
For the second time this season, Woodson welcomed an old friend to Assembly Hall — this time it was Walker. Before serving as an assistant coach on Woodson’s coaching staff with the New York Knicks from 2012-14, Walker spent 10 seasons in the NBA, playing with the Knicks, Denver, Washington, Detroit and Chicago.
Woodson also faced a former teammate, Reggie Theus, two weeks ago when the Hoosiers beat Bethune-Cookman 101-49.
Little Rock: Closes out the Hoosier Classic on Saturday at Miami (Ohio).