The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 9, 2014

Vikings fall under the pressure


---- — DANVILLE — Turnovers has been an issue for the Danville boys basketball team this season.

On Saturday night, Decatur MacArthur turned up the defensive pressure, forcing 24 turnovers as the Generals won their eighth straight contest with a 65-53 victory over the Vikings in a Big 12 Conference contest.

"We don't have lots of ball handlers on this team,'' Danville coach Ted Houpt said. "Execution depends on making a good pass. We've got big guys with the ball in their hands that are not used to it.

"But, we can do better. We need to get guys in the right spots with a clear purpose. It's something we have struggled with this year.''

But after Friday's loss to Champaign Central (64-47), Houpt had a much different perspective on how his Vikings played on Saturday night.

"Absolutely no doubt the effort was there,'' he said. "Those guys stayed together through the tough times and fought hard. We didn't get a lot of breaks in this game, but our guys stayed together and they were committed to the fight.

"We got the will, we just have to develop the skill.''

One of the areas that Danville didn't get any breaks can easily be seen in the post-game statistics.

MacArthur, which improved to 12-6 overall and 5-4 in the conference, managed to shoot 30 free throws — making 14 — while Danville was limited to just 4-of-6 at the free-throw line in the contest.

And while those numbers seemed to be a little one-sided, Houpt was still more concerned with his team's ball-handling issues.

"Every team has weaknesses, and right now, that's our area of weakness,'' he said. "It's not a knock on any one player, because these guys are going what they can do right now. We, as the program, need to do a better job of developing some ball handlers.''

And Houpt said a great deal of credit should go to the Generals.

"That's an impressive team,'' he said. "They are big, strong kids. They were able to push up on us with their defense. We are a kind of thin team and when we get into a physical game, it makes it difficult to make the right passes and hold onto the ball.

"It helps to be strong with the physical nature of the game. When those guys walk out, they look big and solid.''

Actually, the only player that doesn't pass the big and solid test for MacArthur is senior guard Marcus Bartley, who is really long at 6-foot-5.

Bartley, who has already signed to play at St. Louis University next fall, scored a game-high 24 points for the Generals, 12 of those coming in the first quarter as he made 5-of-6 shots. In the final three quarters, Danville's Kylen Butler did fairly decent job of containing Bartley, but MacArthur got 15 points from Jerome Adams and 10 points from Keymonte Johnson.

The Vikings, who trailed by 14 points in the second half, closed within 48-42 on a steal and layup from Kemony Lester with 4:35 left. But that was as close as they would get. Danville made just 40 percent of its shots, including a disappointing 5-of-20 behind the 3-point arc.

"We've got to knock some shots down,'' Houpt said. "We seem to do better when we are attacking. We struggle against a good, strong half-court defense. If we can get the ball into the front court, we can get the ball to Denzel (Smith) and he made some good plays tonight.''

Smith had a team-high 16 points for the Vikings to go along with eight rebounds. Butler finished with 15.

In the junior varsity contest, Danville beat MacArthur 48-40. Jordan Cunningham had a team-high 10.