DANVILLE — Durrell Robinson knew what he and his Danville boys’ basketball team were getting into.
Sure, Tuesday night’s game against Chicago Orr was the Vikings alumnus’ homecoming, in a sense.
His first time roaming the home sideline for the program with which he used to star for in the mid-1990s.
But Robinson also was aware just how difficult it would be for Danville to come out on the winning side of this particular matchup.
So after the result went into the record book as a 74-64 Vikings loss to the Spartans, Robinson wasn’t too torn up.
“We knew what we scheduled: We scheduled Orr,” Robinson said. “Three-time defending state champions. We knew what they were going to bring. ... I just appreciate them coming down to central Illinois, giving us a test that we need early in the season.”
That feeling was mutual for Spartans coach Lou Adams, who has overseen three consecutive Class 2A state championship teams and boasts a 157-44 record in seven-plus seasons.
“We just wanted to get our feet wet,” said Adams, whose boys made their 2019-2020 season debut on Tuesday. “Wins and losses don’t really matter now. Just playing the best teams, and that is one of the best teams.”
Danville (3-2) had its opportunities to pull off a statement victory in front of a crowd nearly entirely comprised of Vikings fans. A sluggish opening quarter, however, kept the Vikings a step or two behind the rest of the night.
Orr strung together an eight-point run just a few minutes into the game, pulling ahead 12-2. That established the base of a 24-14 advantage after eight minutes.
Demarius Splunge cashed in on the absence of Danville big man Robert Stroud, whom Robinson said was inactive for disciplinary reasons.
Splunge banked six first-period points in the paint, while William Thomas complemented with a pair of three-pointers that barely rustled the net.
The Vikings, meanwhile, were turnover-prone across the first and second quarters, piling up 12 in that time.
“We fell into their trap,” Danville junior Nathanael Hoskins said. “That’s what Chicago teams like to do is make us turn it over, and we did it (Tuesday).”
Orr regularly tossed two athletes at both Hoskins and fellow junior Tevin Smith, determined to stifle guys Adams described as “two of the best players in the state.”
Smith converted five field goals — including just two in the second half — on his way to 16 points.
Hoskins, meanwhile, seemed determined to drag the Vikings through the Spartans’ defensive design.
The 6-foot-4 guard finished with 27 points, weaving his way through bodies beneath the rim and spotting up for a trio of three-pointers.
“Just trying to come in and be aggressive,” said Hoskins, who isn’t too far removed from a visit to Indiana State. “I just know it’s now or never, so I’ve just got to be aggressive.”
Devin Miles provided another 10 points for Danville. Robinson also expressed happiness with the efforts of seniors Iggy First and John Ward, who took turns filling a Stroud-sized hole in the post.
The pair helped the Vikings keep pace rebounding, as Danville trailed Orr only 28-22 by game’s end in that statistic.
One statistic that couldn’t be positively viewed for the Vikings was free throw shooting: a 13-of-25 statline.
“We’re a pretty good team, but in order to be a great team, we’ve got to shoot free throws better and finish layups,” Robinson said. “That’s an elite team, and we still had chances.”
The “elite” Spartans had their own issues, too, mainly in staying out of foul trouble.
Splunge played the final quarter with four miscues, and guard Shaun Harris (eight points) left the floor with five fouls before the third quarter even ended.
Eight different Orr players drilled at least one field goal, though, compared to Danville’s five. Splunge led the surge with 15 points, Bryce Hall added 12 points and Leontae Lilly put down all eight of his points in the second half.
“We ain’t played no organized basketball since we won state, so that’s a big part of it,” Adams said. “We did well (Tuesday).”
Adams also felt the Spartans received a break when it came to Smith’s offensive production.
“He just had an off night,” Adams said. “Real good basketball player. He’s going to make up for that down the line.”
The Vikings hope to atone for their free throw woes moving forward as well. They’ll have more than a week to work on that aspect before visiting Bloomington on Dec. 13 to open Big 12 play.
What Robinson and his pupils saw Tuesday night ultimately left room for both improvement. And excitement.“It’s fun because it’s tough competition,” Hoskins said. “It let us know what we’re going to face in the future.”