DANVILLE — Coaches are always warning their teams about overlooking an opponent.
Danville’s Durrell Robinson spent a lot of time this week trying to get his Vikings to understand that while Normal West had just one win in eight attempts this season, the Wildcats were still a very capable team in the Big 12 Conference.
The Vikings didn’t heed the words of their coach.
Instead, the Wildcats came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 31 points in the first quarter on 12-of-16 shooting, including making 6-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc.
Danville was able to overcome an 18-point deficit, but 6-foot-7 senior center Corey Walker gave Normal West an 88-86 victory with a basket with 6 seconds left.
“I tried to warn them that Normal West was better than its record,’’ Robinson said. “They have had a number of close games this year and they just haven’t been able to pull them out.
“We allowed them to get several easy looks in that first quarter and when a team sees the ball going through the hoop, it gives them a ton of confidence.’’
Danville senior Tevin Smith admitted that Friday’s game is one that he was going to watch again when he got home.
“I want to see it against to know what we did wrong and right,’’ said Smith. “We shouldn’t have lost this one. Game like this are the ones that you will replay in your head over and over, especially when you played as hard as you could.
“This just doesn’t feel right. I knew to see what I could have done better and what we could have done better as a team.’’
The biggest problem for the Vikings (5-2 overall, 5-2 in the Big 12) on Friday night was a number of defensive breakdowns in the game’s first 12 minutes.
The Wildcats (2-7 overall, 2-5 in the Big 12) built a 44-26 lead midway through the second quarter thanks in large part to nine 3-pointers on 12 attempts.
“We had some miscommunication on ball screens and their drive-and-kicks,’’ Smith said. “Giving up six 3-pointers in one quarter and nine in one half — you can’t do that and expect to win.’’
Danville switched out of its zone defense, going man-to-man which fueled a 19-5 run by the Vikings, allowing them to close within 49-45 at halftime.
“We picked it up late in that second quarter, but we should have been playing that way from the start,’’ Smith admitted.
In the third quarter, Danville tied the game and took its first lead with 6 minutes, 2 seconds left on a basket by O’Shawn Jones-Winslow.
The two teams seemingly traded baskets for the rest of the contest.
Smith, who finished with a game-high 34 points, and Nathanael Hoskins, who finished with 30 points, carried things for the Vikings as they scored 34 of the team’s 41 points in the second half.
“Nathanael and Tevin were able to get to the basket,’’ Robinson said. “We were working a simple 2-man isolation play.’’
The only problem was that Danville couldn’t come up with enough defensive stops.
Walker scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. The 6-7 center figured into the final two possessions for the Wildcats, getting a 3-point play with 1:01 left and then the game-winning basket with 6 seconds left.
It was the 3-point play that Danville and Smith thought could have been a different outcome.
“I really thought that I drew a charge on that play,’’ said Smith, who was called for the blocking foul. “I felt that he dipped his shoulder into me, but I didn’t get the call.’’
Smith, who also had a game-high 10 rebounds, did have one final chance to give the Vikings the come-from-behind victory, but his 30-foot shot at the buzzer came up just short.
“I thought it was going in,’’ Smith said. “It felt like the whole play was in slow-motion until the ball hit the front of the rim.’’
Joining Smith and Hoskins in double figures for the Vikings was freshman Emersen Davis with 10, while the Wildcats had five players score in double digits. Walker led with 22, followed by Max Ziebarth with 19, Colton Cassady came off the bench with 14, Jonathan Edmondson had 13 and Ja’Marcus Webb chipped in with 10.