Eureka Tops SLIAC Preseason No. 1 Fontbonne, 86-80

File photo by Blake Baxter
File photo by Blake Baxter

ST. LOUIS – Ian Milsteadt (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) and the Eureka men's basketball team came to Fontbonne on Tuesday and knocked off the SLIAC preseason No. 1 Griffins on their home floor.

After six ties and seven lead changes over 40 minutes of heated basketball, the Red Devils collected an 86-80 non-conference victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Milsteadt, the Red Devils' sharp-shooting, hard-driving senior guard, led the way with a career-high 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field. He knocked down 5-of-8 3-point tries, gathered a team-high seven boards, made three steals, dished two assists and made one block, all while only turning the ball over once.

Fellow senior guard and the SLIAC Player of the Week Chris Daniels (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) posted his second straight 21-point performance on 9-of-18 shooting, tallied six rebounds and had three assists.

Point guard Jalen Hosea (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) and junior transfer Jordan Brooks (St. Joseph, Ill./St. Joseph-Ogden) each had eight points. Freshman big man Lane Thompson (Dwight, Ill./Dwight) notched six points in his Red Devils debut, and senior big man Jaedon Banks (Peoria Heights, Ill./Peoria Heights) contributed six rebounds, two blocks and four crucial points – all free throws in the final 30 seconds to put the game away.

Tuesday's contest was officially a non-conference matchup between conference foes, but it had the feel of a midseason SLIAC showdown.

The Griffins put the pressure on the Red Devils early and used it to get out to an 8-2 lead. They led by as many as nine in the first half, but the visitors showed early resilience and responded in kind.

A layup by Charlie McKinty (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood) tied the game at 27-27 with 7:17 left and a layup off a Daniels drive gave EC its first lead of the game.

Hosea extended it to five for the first time with a steal and layup on the other end with 3:05 until halftime, but 90 seconds later, it was tied again.

The Red Devils went into the locker room with a four-point lead after Milsteadt and Brooks each hit a triple in the final minute. The score was 43-39.

Fontbonne shot 55.2 percent from the floor to Eureka's 45 percent, but the Red Devils hit two more 3-pointers than the home team and attacked the basket relentlessly. That trend largely continued in the second half, as EC finished the game with 46 points in the paint to Fontbonne's 28.

The Griffins kept it close in the first eight minutes of the second half and regained the lead with a 3 by Anthony Jones with just under 12 minutes to play. Another Fontbonne 3 by Brett Wagner extended the lead to five, but a Milsteadt trey and a bucket off his own steal tied the game at 60-60 with 11:10 to go.

Jones, who finished with a team-high 27 points, responded with a layup on the other end, but Eureka went on a 7-0 run to take a five-point lead with less than 10 minutes.

As usual, the Griffins didn't go away easily. Every time EC threatened to pull away, they were right back in it.

With less than five minutes to play, Eureka extended the lead to a game-high nine points on a Daniels layup and led by as many as eight in the final two minutes. However, back-to-back 3s by Cody McKinney and Jones made it a two-point game with 35 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Fontbonne chose to intentionally foul Banks and force the big man to make key free throws. The 6-foot-9 senior did just that, sealing the win and a 2-0 start to the season.

Eureka shot 50 percent in the second half and 47.2 percent in the game. The team also improved from 55 percent free-throw shooting in Game 1 to a 78.6 percent (11-for-14) on Tuesday.

The Red Devils (2-0) will next face an Illinois College (3-1) team that twice beat Fontbonne on Tuesday in a non-conference contest at 7:30 p.m.