JOLIET, Ill. – NAIA St. Francis made 16 3-pointers during Saturday's contest against visiting Eureka, helping turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 107-77 non-conference triumph over the Red Devils during the opening night of the USF Classic at the Sullivan Center in Joliet, Ill.
Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin H.S.) went 8-for-13 from the floor to net a game-high 21 points for the Red Devils. He also paced the visitors with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Fighting Saints opened up a 24-12 lead at the 12:10 mark of the first half, but Eureka pushed back with a 14-4 burst to trail 28-26 after a 3-pointer from Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian H.S./Olivet Nazarene) with 7:39 left before halftime. USF was able to regain its double-digit lead and led by as many as 13 later in the opening period, but the Red Devils scored the final five points of the half and held USF without a field goal for the final 2:57 of the half. The St. Francis lead at the break was 48-40.
Eureka never closed the gap after intermission. Bennington scored eight of his 11 points in the final 20 minutes and Drew Yonker (Normal, Ill./Normal West H.S.) scored all five of his points off the bench after halftime.
Malik Bailey and Reilly Goulet scored 20 points apiece for the hosts. The Fighting Saints shot better from 3-point range (47.1 percent) than from inside the arc (44.8 percent).
The Red Devils will face a quick turnaround Sunday, playing their second and final game of the USF Classic in a 2 p.m. tip-off against NAIA Cardinal Stritch. The Red Devils and Wolves will be meeting in men's basketball for the first time since Nov. 18, 1983, a 79-68 EC victory on a neutral floor in Rockford, Ill.