JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) poured in a career-high 31 points and the Eureka men pulled away from MacMurray for a 98-80 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory at Bill Wall Gymnasium Wednesday night.
Less than a week after notching a then-career-best 22 against Fontbonne, Juergens shot 11-for-14 from the field, knocked down 3 of 4 3-pointers and put away all six of his free-throw attempts. The junior also distributed a team-high six assists and gathered seven rebounds.
Classmate Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian), who broke the school record with 51 points in the Red Devils' 161-153 win over Greenville on Monday, followed with 22 on 9-of-17 shooting.
Senior Hank Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) added 20 and registered four assists while making a slew of big plays in the final 10 minutes, and junior Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) pulled down a team-high 10 boards to go with eight points.
EC improved to 9-8 in the SLIAC and 10-13 overall, while the Highlanders fell to 3-14 and 6-18. Logan Dorethy (19 points), Wade Fox (18) and Connor Vincent (16) all reached double figures for MacMurray.
For most of the first half, the Red Devils couldn't find any separation between themselves and the home team.
They went back and forth with the Highlanders, with the lead changing hands four times. The final one occurred on a layup by Alex Wiegand (Washington, Ill./Washington) off a simple give by Juergens with 2:41 left in the half.
That kicked off a 12-5 run that ended the period and gave EC a six-point advantage at the break.
The Red Devils opened the second half with a 14-2 run that gave them the upper hand for the rest of the way. MacMurray countered, though. First, they answered with a 7-0 run, then cut the lead down to four with less than 10 minutes left.
But, ever so gradually, the Red Devils left the Highlanders behind. Thomas and Juergens both made traditional 3-point plays and Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) and Thomas both drilled 3s. Bennington made two triples, finished an alley-oop tossed by Thomas and hit the foul shot that came after.
It helped that the Red Devils hit 11 of 12 free throws in the last 9 ½ minutes. The maroon and gold shot 18 of 19 from the stripe on the night and finished with a 54.5 field-goal percentage overall.
The Red Devils will wrap up their conference season on Saturday at home against Iowa Wesleyan at 3 p.m. in a game that could play a part in shaping the SLIAC tournament field.