EUREKA, Ill. – On an afternoon in which Eureka College recognized its most successful men's basketball teams in program history, the 2011-12 Red Devils did their part to add to the celebration with an 85-57 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over Principia, Saturday afternoon at the Reagan Center. Eureka junior center D.T. Thornton (Normal, Ill./Normal West H.S./Carl Sandburg) paced the Red Devils with a career-high 15 points and seven rebounds in just 14 minutes of action off the bench.
The Red Devils (3-3, 2-0 SLIAC) led from wire-to-wire on Saturday, scoring on their second possession of the game and never trailing in picking up their second consecutive SLIAC victory. Eureka's lead hit double-digits for the first time on Thornton's putback for a 20-9 advantage at the 9:47 mark of the first half. The Red Devils led by as many as 16 points in the first 20 minutes after a 3-pointer from junior guard Jordan Kindred (Christman, Ill./Chrisman H.S.) for a 26-10 advantage with 8:26 left before halftime. Kindred's triple put the exclamation point on 13-1 EC run that covered nearly three minutes midway through the half.
Principia (0-7, 0-2 SLIAC) closed the gap to eight points in the final minute of the half to trail 33-25, but the hosts started the second half on a 12-3 run to open up a 45-28 lead. The Red Devils added to that advantage throughout the second half and led by as many as 30 points when sophomore reserve Ryan Olson (Streator, Ill./Streator H.S.) successfully converted a 3-point play with 1:02 left in the game. Sophomore guard Zach Henn (Redmon, Ill./Paris H.S./Parkland H.S.) added his own exclamation point to the rout with a two-handed slam dunk on a breakaway started by Thornton's outlet pass with 3:18 remaining.
Thornton went 7-for-8 from the field, while junior center Mark Lessen (Delavan, Ill./Delavan H.S.) compiled 13 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth career double-double. Junior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls, Ill./Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley) was the third Red Devil to score in double-figures with 10 points to go along with a career-high seven assists and zero turnovers. Eight different Red Devils scored at least eight points to help Eureka to its largest margin of victory in a conference game since joining the SLIAC prior to the 2006-07 season.
As a team, Eureka recorded a season-high 23 assists and a season-low eight turnovers. The turnover total was Eureka's fewest in a single contest since giving the ball away six times in the SLIAC Tournament championship game against Westminster on Feb. 27, 2010. In addition to taking care of the ball on the offensive end, Eureka shot 62 percent (21-for-34) from the field in the second half and limited the Panthers to 30 percent (14-for-46) shooting for the game. Eureka's victory was its fourth in a row at the Reagan
Center dating back to last season.
Kenny Sydness played the full 40 minutes, scored a game-high 19 points and collected nine rebounds for the Panthers. Principia held a slim 40-37 edge on the glass, but Eureka controlled the interior game with a 50-10 advantage on points scored in the paint.
Eureka College honored Hall of Fame head coach Dave Darnall and all 20 of his squads from 1974 through 1994 with a halftime ceremony to dedicate "Championship Circle" at halfcourt of the new Reagan Center floor. More than 75 former Red Devils joined Darnall and his family on the floor for the ceremony.
Eureka will resume non-conference play on Wednesday at Lincoln Christian at 7 p.m.