Eureka College mens' basketball splits games

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Eureka College seniors Dustin Fritsch (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) and Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.) each produced double-doubles, leading the Red Devils to their biggest non-conference victory over an NCAA Division III opponent in nearly three years in Friday's 82-63 rout of Rockford at the Reagan Center.

The victory improves Eureka to 3-0 for the first time since the 1990-91 season.

Friday's outcome was never in doubt, as Eureka (3-0) held Rockford (0-4) without a field goal for more than seven minutes while building a 16-1 lead.

Fritsch scored seven of his game-high 17 points during Eureka's early burst.

A quick Rockford run, one of the few for the game, brought the Regents within single-digits, 20-11, with 8:59 remaining in the half.

The Red Devils responded with a 20-10 surge over the next 8:29 and took its largest lead of the half, 40-21, on a clutch 3-pointer from junior guard Connor Lincoln (Polo/Polo H.S./Sauk Valley) with less than a minute remaining before intermission.

The Red Devils carried a 42-24 advantage into the locker room after the dominant first half performance by the senior class.

Lessen nearly compiled his double-double in the first half, scoring eight points and collecting nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Eureka limited the visitors to 25 percent (8-for-32) shooting in the first half and outrebounded the Regents, 30-22.

The Red Devils continued to apply the pressure after halftime, using a 16-5 blitz in the first four minutes to double up the visitors, 58-29. Rockford pushed back and trimmed its deficit to as little as 15, 62-47, when Travis Hawkins split two foul shots with 9:29 remaining, but Eureka answered with a 16-2 run to match its largest lead of the game, 78-49, on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Tony Dunlap (Lanark/Eastland H.S.) with 6:33 left in the contest.

Fritsch scored 17 points and grabbed 11 boards, while Lessen tacked on 11 points and collected a game-high 12 rebounds. Dunlap came off the bench for a career-best 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range, while Lincoln also set a new personal-high with 11 points. Senior guard Chuck Misuraca (Winnebago/Winnebago H.S./Missouri Valley) distributed a career-best eight assists in his third career start. The Red Devils knocked down 13 3-pointers, their best effort from long range since making 13 triples at Principia on Jan. 21, 2012.

A total of 16 Red Devils saw action on Friday, including the collegiate debuts of freshmen Josh Hack (Washington/Washington H.S.) and Mike Sain (Columbus, Ohio/Reynoldsburg H.S.). Hack scored his first career points on Sain's first career assist on a transition layup with 30 seconds left in the game.

Troy Minnifield and Scott Suchy scored 11 points apiece to pace the Regents. Rockford shot just 30 percent (20-for-66) for the game, falling to 0-4 on the season.

The Red Devils were off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1990-91 and just fifth time in the program's NCAA Division III era. Additionally, Friday's 19-point victory over the Regents marked the Red Devils' biggest win over a non-conference Division III foe since earning an 88-57 triumph over Knox at the Reagan Center on Dec. 15, 2009.

Eureka had less than 24 hours to prepare for its next opponent, as Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member Central visited the Reagan Center Saturday. The Dutch earned a 59-56 win over the Red Devils last November in Pella, Iowa, the first matchup on record between the two schools.

Eureka College senior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls/Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley) scored a personal season-high 22 points, while seniors Dustin Fritsch (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) and Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.) each put up double-doubles for the second time in less than 24 hours, but Central snapped Eureka's season-opening three-game win streak with a 94-82 victory over the Red Devils, Saturday afternoon at the Reagan Center.

The Red Devils (3-1) put together the game's first run to take their largest lead of the afternoon, using a 12-2 surge midway through the first half to claim a 25-15 lead. A 3-point play at the 10:26 mark from fifth-year guard Jordan Kindred (Chrisman/Chrisman H.S.) put an exclamation point on the run that lasted just 3-minutes, 3-seconds.

The visitors immediately closed the gap, chipping away at their deficit until a transition layup from Jordan Cruse gave the Dutch a 29-28 edge with 6:41 remaining before halftime. Central (4-0) would hold on to the advantage for the remainder of the half, and an interior bucket from Branden Stubbs in the closing seconds of the half helped the Dutch match their largest lead of the first 20 minutes, 44-38.

The Red Devils kept a manageable deficit early in the second half and eventually clawed within two points, 49-47, on Nailor's basket on the fast break with 16:07 left, but the Dutch answered with Nick Marinkovich's 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Marinkovich tacked on another triple exactly one minute later, allowing Central to maintain at least a two-possession cushion for the remainder of the contest.

Nailor went 9-for-16 from the field and shared the team lead with senior guard Niko Rivera (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) with four assists. Lessen added 18 points and 12 boards, while Fritsch had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Eureka held a 47-37 advantage on the glass and shot 50 percent (17-for-34) from the field in the second half, but Central committed only six turnovers for the afternoon and scored 50 of its 94 points in the paint.

Stubbs led all players with 26 points and seven assists in the full 40 minutes for the visitors. Marinkovich (22) and Jacob Winkler (14) also scored in double-figures, while Matt Greenfield pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Eureka will now turn its attention to the 16-game St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule, welcoming MacMurray for an 8 p.m. tip-off Wednesday at the Reagan Center.