Nick Dials recorded his first collegiate coaching win as Urbana University men’s basketball slid past Central State 81-77 Tuesday night at the Grimes Center.
When asked about his first win, Dials quickly responded: “It made me into a dancing man tonight.”
There were plenty of reasons to dance after UU finished 20 of 21 at the line and drained a season-high 13 threes while shooting 50 percent overall from the floor. UU led for over 37 minutes but fended off a late comeback attempt by knocking down 12 consecutive free throws.
“Our guys are improving every day and it’s finally nice to see a reward,” Dials said. “We finally strung together some nice possessions while playing with a lead and that was great to see. We still have plenty of things we need to work on, but overall, we overcame mistakes instead of dwelling on them and that was the difference.”
UU leading scorer Malik Jacobs kept his early season dominance going with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Jacobs, who is averaging 25.0 ppg in the past two outings, finished 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and added five boards with three assists. It was his fourth career 20-point effort.
Mike Ryan (15 points), Chris Jackson (11), and Roy Hatchett Jr. (10) all made big plays in the second half while scoring in double figures. In addition, Ethan Snapp dished out a team-high six assists paired with nine points. Aarmanni Garnett chipped in with seven points.
UU (1-9) limited Central State (4-5) to 40-percent shooting (28 of 70) to equal the lowest percentage recorded by an opponent this season. However, the Blue Knights were dominated in the post where the Marauders out-scored UU 44-18 and produced 24 second-chance points. CSU controlled the glass by posting a 45-27 margin on rebounds.
UU hit its first six shots and raced out to an early 16-5 lead, with half of the points coming from Jacobs, in the opening four minutes. But, the visitors responded by climbing all the way back to claim a one-point lead, 35-34, with 3:34 left in the half. A pair of Jacobs free throws closed the period with UU in front 39-37 at the break.
The Blue Knights kept the hot hand going in the second stanza and led by as much as 13 on a pair of Abdul Kanu free throws with 13:17 remaining. CSU got it back down to single digits over the final few minutes, and then a Marauder trey sliced the deficit to one with UU in front 77-76 with eight seconds to go.
That’s when Jacobs and Ryan stepped up as both hit a pair of free throws to ice the game.
UU continues non-conference play this week when it travels to Southern Indiana (7-2) on Friday. Tipoff in Evansville is slated for 8 p.m. ET.