ELSAH, Ill. – The Eureka men saw a tight St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic game at Principia get away from them Tuesday night.
After nearly matching the Panthers step for step in a competitive first half, the Red Devils struggled to find offense when they needed it in the second.
As a result, the home team took down EC 89-78 at Hay Field House and pushed the maroon and gold down to seventh in the SLIAC standings.
EC junior Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian) notched a double-double in a losing effort, scoring 15 of his team-high 22 points in the first half and tallying a team-high 11 rebounds.
Junior Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) followed with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Senior Hank Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) added 13 points and hit a trio of 3-pointers and junior Jordan Dehm chipped in with 11 while hitting 7 of 8 free throws.
Senior Alex Wiegand (Washington, Ill./Washington) also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Early on, the Red Devils held a six-point lead after Thomas canned back-to-back treys to make it 12-6 and prompted a Principia timeout less than three minutes into the game.
However, the Panthers came right back with an eight-point swing. A Juergens 3 ended the run and kicked off a back-and-forth affair that lasted most of the rest of the half.
One exception came when EC rattled six straight points to make it 34-28 with 6:24 remaining until halftime. A no-look assist in transition by Bennington to Juergens turned it into a two-possession game and a Bennington free throw extended the lead to six.
But the Panthers came back quickly and closed the half on a 13-7 run to hold a slim 42-41 edge at the half.
They then scored the first seven points of the first half, putting the Red Devils on their heels and forcing them to regroup less than two minutes into it.
There was plenty of time to recover, mount a comeback and regain control. But it wasn't to be. The Panthers led by as many as 14 midway through the half, and EC never came closer than six the rest of the way.
Donald Hardaway, Jr. (Lansing, Ill./Cimarron Memorial) knocked down a triple and made it 79-73 with 2:06 left, but the Red Devils couldn't piece anything together after that.
The Red Devils shot just 28.9 percent in the second half after hitting 47.1 percent from the field in the first half.
On the other end of the court, Principia's Micah Paulson – the SLIAC's leading scorer – came alive, putting up 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half. Paulson and teammate Trevaughn Goodman drew foul after foul and finished a combined 13-for-15 from the line.
Goodman tallied a team-high 21 points for Principia, and Clark Davidson registered 16 points and 12 rebounds. All five Panther starters reached double figures.