EUREKA — Early on last season, the Eureka men's basketball team and Berea went down to the wire.
With a hot start, balanced offense and solid defense, the Red Devils made sure it wasn't ever close on Friday night.
EC cruised to a 94-78 season-opening win at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena, taking down the Mountaineers for the first time in three meetings.
It was the team's biggest margin of victory in a season opener against a Division III opponent in the Chip Wilde era. The last time EC opened the season with a win this steep was an 86-65 rout over Principia on Nov. 21, 2003, when Mike DeGeorge was the coach.
On Friday, the Red Devils opened with a 21-6 run and shot 58.8 percent from the floor in the first half. They knocked down 20 of 34 shots from the field and took a 28-point lead into halftime. They also held the Mountaineers 0-for-12 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.
"I think we were just getting to our spots," senior Jordan Dehm said. "We were getting shots we were comfortable taking. We do a lot of shooting in practice and guys come to the gym pretty often shooting around, so it's good to see the results paying off."
In addition to EC's trio of senior leaders, transfer newcomers Chris Daniels (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) and Ian Milsteadt (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria/Illinois Central College) added 13 and 11, respectively, while sophomore Jalen Hosea (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) chipped in with nine.
Bennington finished with a double-double, adding a team-high 11 rebounds to go with his 18 points, three assists and three steals. Dehm distributed a team-high four assists, and Jaedon Banks (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Heights) tallied a career-high five blocks.
After shooting just 20 percent in the first half, Berea made it respectable by shooting 52.9 percent in the second. The closest the Mountaineers were able to come, though, was within 13 with 2:30 left.
Isaac Caudill led Berea with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with four 3-pointers, while Torell Carter and Terique Milller each contributed 11.
EC's win was a stark reversal of last season's 90-88 loss at Berea that was decided by a layup in the closing seconds.
"I've watched that film probably countless times," Dehm said. "And we have as a team, and it just makes me sick to my stomach. It feels good to beat them, especially at home in front of a nice crowd."
The Red Devils' (1-0) next challenge comes next Friday when they travel to Monmouth (0-0) for a non-conference showdown at 6 p.m.