The McKendree University men’s basketball team bounced back into the win column Wednesday evening with an 84-60 victory at home against Central Christian College.
Senior guard Michael Jackson (O’Fallon) and junior guard Justin Blanks each recorded a double-double to help the Bearcats end a four-game winless streak. Jackson and Blanks shared team-high scoring honors with 20 points, while Blanks grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and Jackson added 10 on the night.
McKendree improves to 3-4 on the year and will continue its eight-game home stand Saturday evening against Trevecca Nazarene University. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Harry M. Statham Sports Center.
Sophomore guard Nate Michael chipped in with 11 points and four assists, while freshman center Nolan Gerling (Mater Dei) netted all 10 of his points in the second half for McKendree. Junior guard Gianni Otto helped out with nine points and game-high totals of five assists and four steals for the Bearcats as senior forward Brian Koch dropped in eight points in just nine minutes of action against Central Christian.
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The McKendree bench helped fuel Wednesday’s win over Central Christian. The Bearcats’ reserves held a 40-0 edge in scoring over the Saints. In addition, McKendree outscored Central Christian 42-22 in the paint and outrebounded the Saints by a 48-32 margin.
McKendree led for all but 17 seconds of Wednesday’s contest. Central Christian grabbed its only lead of the night at 6-5 before a lay-up by Jackson at the 17:04mark of the first half put the Bearcats in front for good at 6-5. The Bearcats’ lead grew to 19-10 when Central Christian responded with a 9-2 run to pull within 21-19 midway through the period.
At that point, McKendree ripped off 11 consecutive points to stretch its advantage to 32-19 with 5:55 to play in the first half. Otto opened the burst with a lay-up and three-pointer, while Blanks capped the run thanks to a three-pointer from the wing. The Bearcats maintained its double-digit lead the remainder of the half and took a 38-24 advantage into the locker room.
In the second half, McKendree was able to extend its cushion by shooting 55.6 percent from the field (20-of-36). The Bearcats took their largest lead of the night, 84-49, thanks to a jumper in the paint by Gerling with just over four minutes remaining.
DuJuan Henderson poured in a game-high 27 points and added nine rebounds to lead the way for Central Christian. Jake Kiesby connected for 12 points, while Victor Dean narrowly missed his own double-double with eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds for the Saints.
The win for McKendree was the fifth in as many meetings against Central Christian. It also helped the Bearcats improve to 12-2 in non-conference home games in the month of December since transitioning to NCAA Division II membership in 2012-13.