What are you thankful for this holiday season?
If you’re an Indiana men’s basketball fan, four things immediately come to mind: victories against Xavier University, Miami University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Jackson State University.
With Friday’s 90-51 win over Jackson State, Indiana finished 4-0 during Thanksgiving break and improved to 6-0 overall. There were moments of discomfort and things got a little messy at times, but that’s any holiday.
Before Indiana puts its undefeated record on the line against the No. 1 University of North Carolina on Wednesday, here are four reasons for Indiana fans to feel grateful.
Headband Race Thompson
While star senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was sidelined out of an abundance of caution for a lower back injury Wednesday against Little Rock, graduate student forward Race Thompson logged 20 points and eight rebounds to propel the Hoosiers to an 87-68 victory.
Sixteen of those points came after Thompsons suffered a cut to his forehead and returned to the game wearing a white Adidas headband that slowly turned a faded pink, blurring the fine line between fashion statement and biohazard.
“Headband Race” isn’t just a meme or a dope nickname. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely both of those things, but more importantly, it’s a sign that Indiana has the leadership and physicality to win even when its best player is unavailable.
Jordan Geronimo is ridiculously fun to watch
I could easily write a thousand words comparing each Indiana player to Thanksgiving cuisine, but for now I’ll leave you with the obvious parallel: junior forward Jordan Geronimo is unequivocally, without a doubt, stuffing. In his last three games, Geronimo has recorded 11 blocks, stuffing opponents at the rim, in the paint, at the perimeter, you name it.
Geronimo’s wildly entertaining play isn’t just dressing. He is the Hoosiers’ second-leading scorer off the bench and has shown an ability to score from just about anywhere, be it a surprisingly graceful 3-pointer or an emphatic dunk.
Sure, Geronimo’s blocks are accompanied by plenty of penalties, but what is Thanksgiving without stuffing and a fowl?
Xavier Johnson isn’t messing around
To be fair, he did mess around and receive a technical foul against Xavier on Nov. 18, but that’s beside the point.
But when the Hoosier offense goes stagnant, graduate student guard Xavier Johnson is often the leader who uncorks a 3-pointer or slings an assist to start a run. Even if he doesn’t finish with the gaudiest stat line, his play making is more than enough.
He’s the cousin fearlessly voyaging into the hellscape that is Kroger on Wednesday night to pick up a forgotten can of cranberry sauce. The uncle going way too hard in a game of two-hand touch football. The tag-along boyfriend choking down brutally dry turkey without complaint because to criticize the host would be to court war.
Johnson is a seasoned veteran, and he’s not letting any of his teammates sit at the kids’ table.
Indiana needed 30 points from Jackson-Davis to edge out Xavier 81-79. With Jackson-Davis sidelined Wednesday night, it had to slowly overwhelm Little Rock after leading by as few as six points in the second half.
Blowouts are great, but teams that don’t learn to play through adversity early are doomed to get embarrassed when it arrives.
Roughly 24 hours after the Hoosiers weathered the storm against the Trojans, I was navigating my own tempest: the digestive repercussions of consuming somewhere between seven and 10 slices of pie throughout the course of Thanksgiving Day.
As I braved a gastrointestinal maelstrom of pumpkin, pecan and what I can only assume was the wrath of a vengeful god, I too learned to appreciate the necessary struggle that accompanies any pursuit for glory.
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