MARION — The size advantage NJ Benson and Quani Rudd gave Mount Vernon helped the Rams run out to a big lead and ultimately a 66-45 victory over Marion in a South Seven Conference boys basketball game Friday night at Cuss Wilson Gymnasium.
But even with Benson standing 6-foot-7 and Rudd just an inch shorter, it was senior guard Carson Prost that led four Mount Vernon players in double figures with 20 points in the rout. Benson added 12, including three big dunks, while Dylan Harkins had 11 and Rudd chipped in 10.
Mount Vernon improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the South Seven, while Marion dropped to 1-2 and 1-2. Both teams have lost to Centralia and both have beat Carbondale.
The Rams had a 10-0 lead after a three-point play by Prost and Benson's first dunk, then a nice jumper from the top of the key and Benson's second hammer made it 17-0 with 54 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We dug ourselves a hole and it's been a rough week," said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. "We haven't been able to get in the gym with the snow, then you play the toughest team in Southern Illinois.
"Our legs ran out of juice early. When they're dunking on you and making shots it can snowball on you in a hurry."
A technical foul against Benson on the dunk allowed Marion to get its first points with free throws by Rayzhaun Bardo and Jordan Cook followed with a 3-pointer to cut into the margin before the quarter break.
Prost knocked down a jumper to push the lead to 25-5 and two free throws by Hankins made it 37-16. Again it was Cook hitting a triple just before the horn sounded to trim the deficit at the half.
Mount Vernon's biggest lead came with 3:20 left when Tyler Lyday hit a 3-pointer and put the score at 61-32.
Bardo led Marion with 10 points and Cook had nine. Evan Noelle added eight points, all in the second half.
"We've got to do a better job of penetrating and looking out," Gillespie said. "Mount Vernon is a good team. They looked sharp and we looked off. Our conditioning was off. We need to get back in the gym and get into a practice routine."
Marion plays again Saturday afternoon against Murphysboro.