A dominant second-half performance helped lift the McKendree University men’s basketball team to a 97-60 victory Wednesday afternoon at home against Eureka College.
After holding a 46-44 lead at the intermission, McKendree opened the second half with a 19-0 run and never looked back to keep its perfect home record intact at 4-0. The Bearcats improved to 5-6 overall with Wednesday’s victory, which marked the team’s final game before the holiday break.
In the second half, McKendree outscored Eureka 51-16 while shooting 56.3 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes of play (18-of-32). Defensively, the Bearcats limited the visiting Red Devils to just 21.9 percent shooting (7-of-32) in the same span.
Five players scored in double figures as McKendree recorded a season-high in points. Senior guard Giovanni Offard led the charge with 17 points while adding a game-high six assists. Senior guard Nate Michael chipped in with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Logan Kohrmann helped out with 13 points in the effort for the Bearcats.
Junior center Nolan Gerling and freshman guard CaRondis Harris-Anderson matched Kohrmann in the scoring column with 13 points against Eureka. Gerling registered the Bearcats’ first double-double of the season as he added a game-high 14 rebounds. Anderson had a perfect shooting day against the Red Devils, hitting all four of his field goal attempts (including a 3-for-3 mark from three-point range) while hitting both of his tries from the foul line.
The first half of Wednesday’s game featured seven ties and seven lead changes. Eureka held the advantage in the opening minutes before Harris-Anderson hit a jumper at the 9:50 mark to give McKendree a 30-28 lead. The Bearcats eventually increased the margin to as many as eight points before the Red Devils rallied. Eureka put together a 9-1 run to pull even at 44-44 with 1:02 left in the half. A missed 3-pointer by Eureka enabled McKendree to look for the final shot. The Bearcats missed on a three-pointer of their own, but Offard grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a short jumper just before time expired to give McKendree a 46-44 lead heading into the locker room.
The Bearcats then used the first five minutes of the second half to take control. McKendree scored the first 19 points of the period over the first five minutes of play to extend its lead to 65-44 with 15:08 remaining. All five starters scored during the burst for the Bearcats, led by seven points from Offard. Gerling and Michael each connected for four points during the run. Defensively, McKendree forced Eureka into eight missed shots and a trio of turnovers during the same span.
McKendree continued to keep its foot on the pedal the rest of the half, slowly increasing its advantage the rest of the contest. The Bearcats’ 37-point margin of victory represented the team’s largest lead of the night. All 10 players who dressed for McKendree scored in the effort, and each player connected for at least one field goal against the Red Devils. The 97 points scored by the Bearcats surpasses the team’s previous high of 96 points, which was recorded in McKendree’s last home game against Blackburn College on Dec. 5.
Hank Thomas scored 18 of his team-high 20 points in the first half to lead the way for Eureka. Dakota Bennington added 15 first-half points while Alex Wiegand grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds for the Red Devils.
McKendree will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 29 with an exhibition game against NCAA Division I Drake Universtiy. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. in Des Moines, Iowa.