LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Eureka College sophomore Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian H.S./Olivet Nazarene) scored a career-high 33 points, helping the Red Devils take a critical step in their pursuit of a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament bid and sweep the season series from Spalding for the second year in a row in Saturday's 82-71 win over the Golden Eagles in Louisville, Ky.
After dropping eight consecutive contests to SU in Louisville, Eureka has now won two in a row in Derek Smith Gymnasium and five in a row over the Golden Eagles overall. The Red Devils also improved to 14-7 overall this season and 9-5 in league action.
Eureka and Spalding traded the lead five times in the first half. The Red Devils moved in front for good on an Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin H.S.) 3-pointer for a 17-16 edge with 8:25 left before halftime. His bucket came as part of a 19-7 barrage from the visitors over the final nine minutes of the half. Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora H.S.) connected from long range with 1:07 to play in the half for a 10-point lead and the Red Devils carried the 33-23 advantage into intermission.
The visitors maintained the double-digit lead for much of the second period. The advantage ultimately swelled to 53-37 on Bennington's 3-ball with 9:54 remaining in the game.
SU clawed within single digits when Dominique Ellis split two foul shots for a 60-51 score at the 6:44 mark. Dehm responded with another trey. The Golden Eagles finally inched within six, 75-69, as early as the 2:02 mark, but Bennington's jumper stifled SU's rally moments later and the Red Devils went 5-for-6 at the free throw line over the final 71 seconds to keep the hosts' surge out of reach.
Bennington went 11-for-24 from the field and 10-for-11 at the charity stripe. He also collected eight rebounds. Juregens poured in 12 points off the bench and Dehm netted 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Ryan McElmurry (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg H.S./Black Hawk) recorded seven of EC's 15 assists. Eureka enjoyed a slim 45-42 advantage on the glass.
Five Golden Eagles scored in double digits, led by 17 from Ellis. SU shot just 36 percent from the floor and 56 percent at the free throw line, but did connect 10 times from 3-point range.
Eureka will return home Tuesday in search of its 10th league win in a 7 p.m. tip-off against Principia.