Eureka Shoots Down Westminster, 87-77
EUREKA, Ill. – Eureka College junior guard Niko Rivera (Sterling, Ill./Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) was one of all five starters to score in double-figures with a career-high 18 points, and the Red Devils put forth their best effort from 3-point range in more than three years in an 87-77 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over defending league co-champion Westminster, Saturday afternoon at the Reagan Center.
Rivera scored eight of his 18 points in the first six minutes of the game -- including 3-pointers on consecutive possessions -- to help Eureka (6-6, 3-1 SLIAC) race to a 22-7 lead at the 12:40 mark of the first half. The Blue Jays (6-7, 2-2 SLIAC) eventually clawed back within seven points, 38-31, on Kurt Kovach's basket with 2:37 to go in the half, but Eureka scored five straight to end the half. Included in the 5-0 EC burst was an off-balance 3-pointer from junior guard Jordan Fehr (Roanoke, Ill./Roanoke-Benson H.S.) as time expired for a 43-31 halftime lead.
The Red Devils shot 48 percent (15-for-31) from the field in the first 20 minutes and made eight 3-pointers. Rivera and junior center Mark Lessen (Delavan, Ill./Delavan H.S.) scored 13 points apiece to help the Red Devils build the double-digit lead.
Westminster managed to cut its deficit to single-digits when Mookie Valandra scored inside with 16:46 to play for a 49-40 score, but Eureka answered 26-15 run over the next 5-minutes, 50-seconds and earned its largest lead of the game on another triple from Rivera for a 75-55 cushion with 8:56 to play. The Red Devils led by double-digits for the rest of the way.
Eureka went 15-for-32 from 3-point range on Saturday, the most 3-pointers in a single-contest for the Red Devils since making 19 treys against Lincoln Christian on Feb. 26, 2008. The .469 3-point shooting percentage for Saturday's game was Eureka's top performance of the season and best mark since recording a .727 effort (8-for-11) at MacMurray on Feb. 22, 2011. Seven different Red Devils knocked down a 3-pointer on Saturday, including four apiece from Rivera and junior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls, Ill./Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley).
All five starters finished in double-figures for the Red Devils for the first time since Nov. 20, 2010 against Rockford. Rivera also matched career-highs with nine rebounds and five assists, while Nailor scored all 18 of his points in the second half. Lessen chipped in with 15 points and seven boards. Junior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling, Ill./Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) finished Saturday's contest with 11 points and eight boards, and junior guard Jordan Kindred (Chrisman, Ill./Chrisman H.S.) poured in 10 points while continuing his march to ninth-place on the all-time EC assist list with a game-high six helpers.
Westminster's Joe Prophet came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points in 27 minutes of action. Skylar Tolson added 14 points for the Blue Jays. Westminster enjoyed a 23-6 advantage in free throws taken during the second half, but knocked down only 14 attempts after halftime and shot 64 percent (18-for-28) from the charity stripe for the game.
Eureka will remain home for its next SLIAC bout, hosting Webster on Tuesday at 8 p.m. inside the Reagan Center.