It pressured the ball all over the court, closed passing lanes quickly and consistently controlled the boards as it played for the first time in two weeks.
But there was the Central High School boys basketball team talking about defensive struggles after an 83-59 MVC victory over Aquinas in front of more than 1,000 people at the Reinhart Athletic Complex on Thursday.
“The first half is probably the worst we’ve played,” Central sophomore Jordan Davis said. “They were getting too much on us.”
That was news to anyone outside the program.
The Red Raiders (8-1, 2-0) gave the Blugolds (6-4, 1-2) little to work with from the opening tip to the buzzer that signaled the end of the game.
“I thought they played really good defensively,” Aquinas senior Randy Jacobson said. “They can make it look like something is there when it really isn’t.
“They are good at using their length to take it away, and they made it hard tonight.”
The Blugolds committed 19 turnovers and scored just eight points in the paint as its two-game winning streak was ended.
Sophomore Johnny Davis scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and junior point guard Noah Parcher had 19 points as Central won its eighth game in a row.
“We have a long way to go,” Central coach Todd Fergot said about his team’s defense. “You should see the way we defend in practice. That’s where we have to get during games.
“We did better in the second half, so I thought that was a good step.”
Aquinas was responsible for some of the turnovers, but so was Central, which seemed to always find a way to disrupt what the Blugolds wanted to do.
The Red Raiders outrebounded the Blugolds 39-27 — 15-6 on the offensive end — and limited them to 39.5-percent shooting. Aquinas shots were altered everywhere from under the basket to the 3-point line.
Jacobson managed to score 14 points and grab 10 rebounds. Senior teammate Conley Malone scored a team-high 19, but the Red Raiders led by as many as 30 points twice in the second half and received at least one point from 10 players.
The Blugolds hung around in the first half by making free throws and not allowing early turnovers to frustrate them.
Junior Jacob Savoldelli hit two big 3-pointers as Aquinas cut a 13-point deficit to 32-24 with 3:48 on the clock before David Hayden answered at the other end and teammate Charlie Masewicz followed with a 3-pointer.
Central’s 40-27 halftime lead quickly grew in the opening moments of the second half.
The Red Raiders started with an 11-3 run — Jordan Davis had a steal and took a charge during this stretch — and had a 51-30 lead when Hayden hit a jump shot with around 14 minutes remaining.
Johnny Davis, who entered with a scoring average of 28.1, scored 11 points in the first half and 11 in the second. Jacobson and Malone had 20 of their combined 33 in the second half.
“We know we can play better, and we will,” said Johnny Davis, who made 7 of 15 shots and 7 of 9 attempts from the free-throw line. “I think this was a good game for us to get back into our season.”