CHAMPAIGN — An hour before tipoff, Chad Benedict spent time as a chaperone.
The Mahomet-Seymour coach went through a checklist of Bulldogs players and other personnel who were granted passes from the State Farm Center security personnel before they made their way into Illinois’ home venue.
Conner Diedrich made sure Benedict could enjoy coaching his team, too, in the opening game of the Country Financial Centennial Shootout.
M-S cruised past Peoria Notre Dame 50-34.
Diedrich was a big reason why.
The junior guard poured in a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, showing no adverse shooting touch despite the cavernous setting.
“When we played in our Thanksgiving tournament (in Centralia), he probably wasn’t happy with his performance as far as shooting the ball,” Benedict said. “The thing that he did do was he still played the game. He’s got a high expectation for himself. He came out this week in practice and worked hard and came into (Saturday) with a great frame of mind.”
And a great shooting stroke beyond the three-point line. Even with the college three-point line in place, Diedrich sank 5 of 6 three-pointers.
“I had struggled with my shot at the Thanksgiving tournament, but there wasn’t really much of an adjustment,” Diedrich said. “I thought my teammates did a great job of setting me up for the open shots, and I got a lot of open looks.”
Peoria Notre Dame did not. The Bulldogs (2-3) held the Irish (3-3) to 29 percent shooting.
PND did not have a player finish in double figures, the Bulldogs limiting sharp-shooting guard Shea Feehan to nine points. DeMarco Washington also scored nine for the Irish.
“Feehan is a really great player, and I thought Riley Cockerill and Joe Kenney did a really good job on him,” Diedrich said. “That was a lot of help.”
The way the Bulldogs were able to contain Feehan was crucial, according to Peoria Notre Dame coach Tom Lacher.
“Our offense can’t just be Shea carrying the load,” Lacher said. “Shea’s a great player and a great shooter, but there’s going to be times where his shot’s not falling. We had nothing to fall back on.”
Diedrich carried the load for M-S, but the Bulldogs also utilized Jack Rettig (10 points, six rebounds), Christian Romine (eight points) and Sam Hohlfelder (seven points).
“The thing I like about this group is they’re pretty unselfish with the ball,” Benedict said. “When we get ball movement like that, and when we’re making shots, we can be hard to guard.”