URBANA — Basketball practices at Urbana give the appearance of athletes preparing for a track meet. In a way, that’s what the Tigers are doing.
Guards Donald McKinley and Shimaaz Ivy are Urbana’s marathon men. They are on the court when a basketball game starts, when it ends and — Tuesday against Danville — for every second in between.
Despite playing all 32 minutes, McKinley had enough energy left to hit 7 of 8 fourth-quarter free throws against the Vikings as Urbana increased a two-point lead in the final seven minutes for a 59-49 Big 12 Conference triumph.
“I tell them that we don’t run to punish them, but so we can execute in the end,” Urbana coach Vashoune Russell said. “McKinley has been with me for 21/2 seasons on the varsity. I know he has the stamina.”
Playing time increased for the Tigers following Friday’s injury to junior Marcus Catchings. An 11.8 scorer, Catchings went down with a broken wrist and may miss three to six weeks.
“We can do drills in practice and pound each other,” Russell said, “but ultimately it’s in the heart. We have to be tough, and it was more evident tonight than it has been.”
McKinley scored a game-high 16 points as Urbana reached the .500 mark. Though he wasn’t as strong at the end as when the game started, he takes pride in his free throw shooting.
“I’d lost a little bit, but we run enough to keep me going,” McKinley said. “The free throws are wide-open shots. There’s no one on you. You have to focus and keep your mind clear.”
A Marcus Merriweather basket pulled the Vikings within 40-38 in the opening minute of the final period. McKinley, who had a game-high five assists, hit two free throws 25 seconds later to start Urbana’s 19-8 run.
“It looked like they wanted it more than we did, and I include myself in that,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “We didn’t look like a team prepared to do battle. What they (Tigers) were was a hardworking, smart, scrappy team. We didn’t play with the energy we’ve had all year. I know we could have competed at a higher level. We slipped on intensity and emotional energy.”
Ivy, who was 4 for 4 from the line, was the other Urbana athlete in double figures. He scored 15 points. Sophomore Greg Boyd just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Te Von Hutcherson, who scored the first seven Danville points, totaled 11.
Centennial 52, MacArthur 45. Michael Finke scored 15 points and Luke Vaughn had a double double (12 points, 11 rebounds) as the Chargers spoiled MacArthur’s home opener. Centennial expanded a four-point halftime lead to 12 in the final quarter. Dedric Byrd scored eight points.
Bloomington 73, Central 59. The Maroons’ Xavier Martin had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the Maroons remained winless. Christopher Hutchinson had 13 points and Dominique Phillips 11.