SALEM — Gordon College senior guard Eric Demers entered Tuesday's game against Salem State with a scoring average of over 28 points per game.
After his Fighting Scots dispatched the Vikings, 95-78, that number increased by nearly three full points.
Demers went off for a season-high 41 on an efficient 13-of-23 from the field and 8-for-15 from deep, helping his squad pull away from the hosts in the second half and move above .500 the year.
"Salem's always really good and they always give us a hard time. I know it wasn't a pretty win, but we did what we had to do," said Gordon head coach Tod Murphy, his team now 3-2.
"When you have Eric Demers in there scoring 41 points it makes it a lot easier. He hit shots from everywhere tonight and I know he takes some shots that ordinarily I probably wouldn't allow other players to take, but he makes them."
Demers got going early and often, closing out the first half with 20 points as Gordon took a slight 47-41 edge into the locker room. As referenced by his coach, the 6-foot-1 sharpshooter did his damage in a myriad of ways: mid-range pull-ups with defenders draped in his shirt, slithery layups in traffic and of course, 3-point bombs.
Piling up the buckets is nothing new for the fifth-year standout, as he averaged exactly 23.4 points in each of the last two seasons. But without running mate Garrison Duvivier, who graduated following last year's successful campaign, Demers has taken an even more prominent role in the offense.
In five games thus far, he's scored 24, 30, 28, 32 and 41, respectively, with a shooting split of .464/.400/.853. He seems to have taken his game to the next level in his farewell collegiate campaign, and Murphy has certainly taken note of that.
"He actually worked out with an NBA trainer this summer and that's why his release I think has actually gotten quicker," said Murphy. "Unless you foul him it doesn't really have much of an effect on his shot. He's a pretty special player at any level but at the D3 level he's pretty incredible."
While Demers was undeniably spectacular Tuesday night, things would have been exponentially more difficult had he had to defend Vikings' senior guard Sean Bryan on the other end. Bryan — who had been averaging 23.6 points, eight rebounds and four assists over his first five — missed the contest due to an ankle injury, and the Vikings certainly suffered from his absence.
Without a reliable ball handler to run the offense (junior guard Alex de La Rosa was also out with an injury), Salem State were forced to work the ball inside a bit more. Hakeem Animashaun was once again a force on the block, finishing with 27 points and 14 rebounds while going 11-for-18 from the charity stripe, while Gloucester native Evan Mason finished with an efficient 14 points and seven boards.
But the Vikings' offense looked stagnant and out of sorts at times without two of their top playmakers, and Gordon was able to take full advantage. Salem managed to connect on just three of their 17 3-point attempts on the night. With that being said, Murphy felt his group could've done a better job on defense and on the glass, as Salem managed to out-rebound the Scots', 45-43.
"Without Sean out there I wasn't real pleased with the effort. They would've scored 90-plus easily if Sean was in there so it wasn't one of our best efforts," said Murphy. "If we can get the defense in order with the offense that we have then we can beat a lot of teams. It's just that right now we're going to end up in a lot of 95-94 type games and that's going to end my life way too soon if we do that too often."
Ben North turned in a strong effort for the Scots off the bench, contributing 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks in 23 minutes. Big man Parker Omslaer went for 14 points and seven boards while Josh Crutchfield also reached double figures with 10 points, six assists and two steals. Aljernod Terry led Gordon with 13 rebounds.
For Salem, Chris MacDonald had 14 points and eight boards while Fern Bernard chipped in nine off the bench.