EUREKA – The Eureka men's basketball team got it done on both ends of the court and seized a 74-57 victory over Blackburn to open St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on Wednesday.
The Red Devils held the Beavers under 35 percent shooting in a physical contest at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center. On the other end of the floor, the team withstood Blackburn's pressure and found holes in the team's 3-2 zone to lead by as many as 20 points.
Senior J'Len Crawford (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) came off the bench to lead the maroon and gold in shooting, knocking down 9-of-12 shots from the field and finished with tied for a team-high 23 points in his season debut. He went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc on the night.
Ian Milsteadt (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) also dropped 23 on 8-of-16 shooting. Charlie McKinty (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood) posted a career-high nine points – all on 3-pointers. Chris Daniels (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) added eight points
Jaedon Banks (Peoria Heights, Ill./Peoria Heights) tallied six points, seven boards and a team-high six assists, while Andrew Gonzalez (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein) grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Mislsteadt and Banks each had two emphatic blocks and Gonzalez added one in the final minutes as well to give EC a season-high five blocks.
The Red Devils shot 47 percent from the field while shooting a season-best 44 percent from distance and nearly a season-best 81.8 percent from the free-throw line.
The teams went back-and-forth for the first 10 minutes, then Crawford starting hitting and gave EC the upper hand heading into halftime. He knocked a down a go-ahead 3-pointer to make it 16-14 in the first with 9:57 left in the half.
He knocked down a jumper, made a layup, then hit back-to-back 3s to give EC a 14-point advantage before heading to the bench with 2:53 until halftime. Crawford was 5-for-5 from the field in 12 energetic minutes of play and the Red Devil went into the break with a nine-point lead.
Blackburn came within in the first three minutes of the half, but the Red Devils pulled away and reached their biggest lead of 20 points after another Crawford triple with 11:38 remaining.
The loss was the Beavers' first of the season. With the win, Eureka improved to 3-2 on the season and 1-0 in SLIAC play.
The Red Devils will next take on Iowa Wesleyan on the road Saturday at 3 p.m. EC previously beat the Tigers at home in non-conference play, 85-78.