CHAMPAIGN — The bus rides are the shortest of the season for Urbana.
They’ve also become the most enjoyable.
A week after the Tigers knocked off then-state-ranked Centennial on the road, Vashoune Russell’s squad put it to Champaign Central on Tuesday night in a 75-56 Big 12 Conference win at Combes Gym.
“Like I told the kids, I shouldn’t have to get them up for these crosstown games,” Russell said. “Now it’s when we play the guys that are always at the top of the conference, that’s when I need them to really focus and execute. Our execution wasn’t there, but we shot the ball well.”
Senior guard Donald McKinley scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to go along with six rebounds, and junior Marcus Catchings added 15 points and six rebounds to pace the Tigers.
“This is my first year beating Central,” McKinley said. “It feels good. We’re starting to play as a team.”
Urbana led 33-23 at halftime but quickly expanded its advantage in a third-quarter spurt. Deandre Carter-Sander’s three-pointer capped the Tigers’ 18-2 run during a five-minute span to expanded the lead to 51-25 with 2:19 left in the quarter.
“We had ball movement and we executed,” McKinley said. “We wanted to put them away because they beat us at our house. This was payback.”
The Urbana student section chanted, “This is our house!” at the start of the fourth quarter. Their team’s play and a commanding 54-32 lead for the home team allowed them to do so.
Urbana outrebounded Central 32-18, including a 13-8 edge in on the offensive glass. The Tigers shot the ball efficiently from the field, finishing 30 of 57 (53 percent), including at a 60 percent clip (18 of 30) in the second half. Catchings scored 11 of his points in the second half, including a two-handed fastbreak dunk to give Urbana a 60-32 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Marcus was huge,” Russell said. “Tonight was the first night we’ve been full tilt all year. All the guys are starting to click, and McKinley doesn’t feel like he has to do it all.”
The Maroons played without guard Kameron Rowan. Central coach Scott Davis said Rowan sprained his ankle Monday in practice but could play Friday against Decatur Eisenhower. Central did not have a player in double figures as Jamal Stovall, Chris Hutchison and Dominque Brize each contributed eight points.
“We’ve lost some close games, and we’ve lost some tough games this year, but I thought we’ve always competed,” Davis said. “Tonight I didn’t think we competed. I thought we let Urbana roll us.”