Tulane's Tene Thompson is tired of playing the card game UNO. Apparently, so are her teammates.
“They get mad at me because I've been talking mess in UNO (pronounced 'oohno'),” said Thompson, a 5-foot-11 junior. “I'm like, 'I'm sorry guys, but this is the only sense of competition I've gotten for the past month or so.' "
Thompson has been out since Dec. 18 with a right knee bone bruise. She grabbed a rebound in practice, and a teammate fell on her leg. After mostly rehabilitation work, she returned to full practice and scrimmages this week. There's a good chance she will play Sunday when the Green Wave (9-9, 1-4) goes against Tulsa (8-11, 2-4) in an American Athletic Conference game at Fogelman Arena.
“I'm real excited just to get back out there,” she said. “It's been a month, so I'm trying to get back in condition. But, I'm moving around well, grabbing rebounds. I'm OK.”
Thompson missed both games of the Tulane Classic Tournament on Dec. 21-22 and all five of the Green Wave's AAC games. Tulane has gone 1-4, losing its past three games.
Coach Lisa Stockton said she doesn't want to put the lack of success at the start of the conference schedule on one player, whether they've played in games or not been able to play. However, the absence of Thompson, a starter, has been conspicuous.
In the loss that started the losing streak, in overtime to Houston at home on Jan. 6, two of Tulane's front-court players fouled out and defensive stops overall were difficult to get. In the Wave's most recent loss, at Central Florida on Wednesday, the Knights had an advantage athletically that helped them to an eight-point win, Stockton said.
Thompson, a former champion high jumper in Georgia, is one of Tulane's best defenders and one of its most athletic players.
“She definitely brings some shot-blocking presence and defensive rebounding,” Stockton said. “She's experienced. Tene has played a lot of minutes for us. Defensive rebounding definitely has been a strength for her.”
Thompson has sleeves on her knees. She played last season with one on her left knee because she had damage from the cartilege rubbing against each other, the result of wear and tear. She had surgery after the season to repair it.
The spring before her senior year in high school, she had a bad ankle injury that caused a lot of concern.
“I was trying to dunk and I came down wrong,” she said. “I injured my ankle so bad, I popped a little bone in there. So, I was in a boot for, like, three weeks.
“The tough part was that it was a week before the Spring Exposure Tournament. So, that was hard, going to see all the coaches watch my teammates.”
Tulane won at Tulsa 72-63 on Jan. 3, its second AAC game of the season. However, Stockton said the Wave didn't play well.
“We had a lot of turnovers (24), and we missed 16 free throws (going 20-of-36),” she said. “But the main thing is, when we were winning in nonconference, we played good team defense, and that led to our offense. We've got to get that back. We've got to be able to lock people down on defense.”
They did a better job of that when Thompson was in the rotation.
“Sitting on the bench and not being able to play, I observed a lot,” she said. “It was a different perspective than when I was a backup and waiting to get in. Hopefully, I can play and help the team.”