BLOOMINGTON — Indiana redshirt sophomore forward Race Thompson isn’t one to shy away from contact.
A former quarterback and wide receiver at Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minn., Thompson enjoyed football and the physicality that came with it. Thompson’s father, Darrell Thompson, was a Big Ten freshman of the year running back at Minnesota before going on to a four-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers (1990-94).
“I grew up playing football,” Thompson said. “My dad played football. So it’s kind of in my blood. Just physical mindset. I like it. I don’t mind doing it. Some people don’t like it, and it can change the way the game goes, so I just try to mix it up a little bit.”
Thompson will look to mix it up again off the bench when the Hoosiers (3-0) host Troy (0-2) on Saturday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). A win would give IU a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Thompson is averaging 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds off the bench in his first three games this season and nearly posted a double-double (10 points, nine rebounds) in IU’s second game of the season against Portland State.
“Race Thompson has been a real big lift for our team here early in the year,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “He’s added real, real value of not only blue-collar work but winning tough plays, and that’s big, when you’re bringing guys in that are being able to bring that to the table.”
After redshirting in 2017-18, Thompson appeared in just nine games last season due to a groin injury and a concussion. He’s happy to be back on the court and contributing so far this season. Miller said he intends to play a rotation as deep as 10-to-11 players, which will give Thompson more opportunities to prove himself.
“Just trying to do anything to help the team win a game,” Thompson said. “That’s something I’ve always done throughout my whole life. So just trying to have fun with that. It’s not all about scoring, not all about the highlights and stuff. You’ve got to do the little things to help the team win the game.”
Miller said senior guard Devonte Green was able to practice in a limited capacity Thursday and will do so again Friday. Green has sat out IU’s first three games with a hamstring injury.
“He’s the best he’s been since the beginning of October, and hopefully (Friday) is another day that he can build on,” Miller said.
But Miller stopped short of confirming Green, IU’s returning leading scorer at 9.3 points per game last season, will be back for Saturday night against Troy.
“He’s yet to participate in any live action against an opponent,” Miller said. “Whether that’s a scrimmage, exhibition. So to say that he’s ready to hit on all cylinders is just unfair.”
Miller said sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee has suffered minor setbacks in his return from an abdominal injury and would not set a timeline on when he will return to the starting lineup. Phinisee has played off the bench in IU’s first three games, averaging 11.3 points and 5.3 assists in 21.7 minutes per game.
“Rob is making his way back,” Miller said. “We’ll let the time and, so to speak, the game repetitions and whatnot that he’s a part of sort of tell the story of how close he is to being back to where he normally is.”
DEFENDING THE 3
Miller said Troy will present another challenge for IU guarding the 3-pointers because it has shooters capable of making shots from that distance from all five positions. Troy is shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range (22-of-54) on the season.
IU has allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent from 3-point range (15-of-30) over its last two games.
“We’ve really talked a lot about where we’re at defensively right now,” Miller said. “We have to try to work hard again today and tomorrow to prepare to be better, and we’re definitely going to have 3-point defense awareness and some things like that. It’s definitely going to be the thing that’s on the top of our head.”
Miller said part of the issues of defending the 3-point line has been the inability to get back in transition defense.
“When you give up 3s, you’re usually late on a lot of things,” Miller said. “I think right now that’s just a byproduct of where we’re at as a team in terms of the guys on the floor and the experience level of some of them and some of the combinations of players out on the floor, as well, getting out there for the first time together. But we’re not very in sync.”