BLOOMINGTON – With Indiana starting center Joey Brunk in early foul trouble, the Hoosiers needed a physical presence inside to try to contain Iowa center Luka Garza.
Offensively and defensively, Indiana sophomore forward Race Thompson delivered
Thompson, in just his second game back from a hip injury, matched a career-high with 10 points and had four defensive rebounds and four steals, helping Indiana outlast No. 21 Iowa 89-77 on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Thompson had one steal on an inbounds play that led to a Devonte Green 3-pointer in transition and another steal at midcourt he converted into a transition layup in the second half, giving the Hoosiers a 76-60 edge in the closing minutes.
“That’s who he is for us — does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet and goes unnoticed, but we notice it,” Green said. “And we know he will help us win a game.”
Certainly, IU missed Thompson’s physicality as he sat out the first three games of IU’s four-game losing streak. Even when Thompson came back during a 74-62 loss to Purdue, he was rusty, finishing with no points and one rebound in eight minutes off the bench.
“I didn’t think he was still right,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “But he was ready to practice, and (it) took him about four days to actually get going in practice. But this week (was) much different. Luckily, we’ve had a few days. But he’s at the right place at the right time. He’s about the right things, and he’s a winning player. He helps you win. He makes winning plays.”
Thompson played close to 25 minutes off the bench for the Hoosiers on Thursday night, and IU was plus-16 when he was on the floor.
“Getting some more minutes in the game just helps you feel more comfortable, catching the flow of the game,” Thompson said. “And I know my coaches trust me, my teammates trust me.”
Thompson knew it was going to be a challenge helping to defend Garza, who is making a strong case for Big Ten and national player of the year honors. Garza finished with 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting.
“You know he’s a great player coming into the game,” Thompson said. “So, I mean, really just putting it all on the defensive end is really just all it was about. Trying to focus in on him and trying to stop him as much as you can.”
A SPECIAL VISITOR
Green said having his older brother, Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green, in the stands did not provide any extra motivation or spark his 27-point outing against Iowa.
“I was going to play hard and do what I was trying to do regardless,” Green said. “But it was good to see him and good to have him here. He doesn’t get to come to many games. I’m glad I had a good night while he was here.”
But Miller joked after the game he asked the elder Green if he could skip the second half of the season for the Lakers and come to more IU games.
“Maybe we can FaceTime him every day,” Miller said.
Green wasn’t the only NBA player who attended Thursday’s game. A handful of former IU and current NBA players returned over the All-Star break. Former IU forwards Juwan Morgan (Utah Jazz) and OJ Anunoby (Toronto Raptors) also attended the game and were recognized on the Jumbotron.
BIG DAY FROM DOWNTOWN
Indiana, which came into the game averaging 5.2 3-pointers per game, made a season-high 11 3-pointers against Iowa. Green made seven 3-pointers, while sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee made both of his 3-pointers in the second half.
It was the most 3-pointers for IU since making 11 in a 79-75 loss to Ohio State in the 2019 Big Ten Tournament.