URBANA — The intensity of a crosstown rivalry can often bring out the best in teams.
Both coaches are still searching for their best after Friday’s Big 12 showdown between Champaign Central and Urbana.
Central coach Scott Davis was pleased with his team’s effort in a 65-56 road victory at Urbana Middle School on Friday as the Maroons shot better than 50 percent from the field. It was Central’s third consecutive win after an 0-6 start.
“We played hard and did a really good job of getting the ball inside,” Davis said. “We thought that was a key for us. Once they moved to a box-and-one on Alec (Altmyer) in the second half, we had to be able to take the ball inside and they weren’t able to stop us.”
The Tigers’ frontcourt couldn’t match the height and athleticism on display by the Central big men Davis rotates. Chris Hutchinson and Xavier Martin scored 16 points apiece to lead the Maroons’ inside attack. Sean Suggs finished with 14 points and Wesley Dee had four for Central.
“Chris Hutchinson and Xavier Martin — and (Dominique) Phillips came in in the second half and gave us some good minutes defensively — are long and can rebound, which we need from them,” Davis said.
Though Central controlled most of the game, Urbana wouldn’t go quietly. Every time the Maroons’ lead ballooned to double digits, the Tigers found an answer, often from deep.
Donald McKinney scored a game-high 20 points, connecting on a number of threes and weaving through traffic for a handful of acrobatic layups.
Shimazz Ivy added 12 points, Greg Boyd eight and Deandre Carter-Sanders seven for the Tigers.
Urbana held its only lead at 5-3 early in the first quarter, but Central went on a 13-2 run to take momentum.
The Tigers trailed by only three before Central’s Altmyer (11 points) went on a personal six-point run to close the first half.
Central went on a 16-6 spurt in the third quarter after Urbana cut the lead to 31-30. The Maroons thrived on transition baskets off Urbana turnovers as the hectic play of the first few minutes made its way to the second half.
“That’s one thing this team likes to do,” Davis said of his team getting out in transition. “Sometimes we get out a little too quickly in transition, but they like to get out and run.
“We need to rebound the ball first.”
The Maroons took care of business in the paint, altering Urbana’s shots and controlling the glass — something their coach would like to see more of going forward.
“Our length and our interior play was the difference,” Davis said. “Hopefully we’ll learn from this. We have to do a better job finishing in the end, and decision-making has to improve. We wanted to stop dribble penetration, and I don’t think we did a great job of it.”