ELSAH, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball will return to the road Saturday, playing its fifth game in a stretch of 11 days when the Red Devils visit St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Principia for a 3 p.m. league start in Elsah, Ill.
Eureka has won three straight contest to run its record to 12-5 overall, Chip Wilde's best mark at this point in the season since arriving at Eureka prior to the 2007-08 season. The Red Devils haven't started 12-5 or better since the 1993-94 NAIA national championship squad was 14-3 after 17 contests.
The Red Devils remain in the hunt for their first bid to SLIAC Tournament semifinals since 2013, owning a 6-4 league mark for fifth place and currently holding the final spot in next month's tournament. Despite its fifth-place standing, EC trails league-leading Westminster by just two games in the current standings. All 10 SLIAC teams remain mathematically eligible to qualify for the tournament.
Three Red Devils score at least 13.8 points per game, anchoring what has thus far been Eureka's highest scoring team in program history. Shea Feehan leads the SLIAC with 28.9 points per game, followed by Kendall Davis (25.1 PPG) and Hank Thomas (13.8 PPG).
Eureka ranks third or better among SLIAC teams in several offensive categories, including points per game (93.8), field goal percentage (.488), 3-point field goal percentage (.400) and a league-best .775 free throw percentage. The current free throw percentage is on pace to break Eureka's Division III-era sinle-season team record of .761 set during the 2002-03 campaign.
League coaches picked Eureka to finish eighth during a poll conducted before the start of the season.
The Red Devils return two full-time starters and 10 letterwinners overall from last season's team that went 12-13 overall and 10-8 in the SLIAC to tie for third place in the final league standings. Sixteen newcomers have joined the program, including nine first-year freshmen, to give EC a roster size of 26 student-athletes.
FEEHAN, DAVIS SEND RED DEVILS PAST SPALDING
Shea Feehan poured in 36 points and Kendall Davis added 30, leading the Red Devils to their 10th consecutive home victory in a 84-75 SLIAC victory over Spalding, Thursday night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
The Red Devils and Golden Eagles played to a tight first half until EC closed the period with a flurry. Davis connected from 3 with 2:01 left before intermission, giving the Red Devils a 35-31 cushion and igniting a 14-2 run to finish the half.
Spalding recovered early in the second half, forcing a 51-51 tie with 14:57 remaining. Rylan Rowe gave SU the lead 79 seconds later and the Golden Eagles ultimately led 58-56 with 12:48 to play. Eureka took control from that point forward, going ahead for good on Feehan's 3-pointer just 20 seconds later. The bucket started a 12-0 run to push EC to a 68-58 lead.
The visitors had one final push, rallying within 77-73 with 1:44 left, but Eureka answered with a jumper from Alex Wiegand and the Red Devils led by at least two possessions the rest of the way.
Feehan went 11-for-19 overall, 6-for-12 from beyond the arc and a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line. He hauled down seven rebounds. Davis went 10-for-16 and went 7-for-7 at the free throw line. Eureka was 19-for-24 from the line as a team.
FEEHAN NEARING FREE THROW RECORD
Eureka sophomore Shea Feehan will enter Saturday's game in Elsah with 147 free throws, needing five more foul shots to tie Eureka's NCAA Division III-era single-season record of 152 set by Craig Negangard during the 2003-04 season.
Despite playing in only 30 career games since joining the Red Devils at semester break last season, Feehan has already cracked Eureka's career free throws list during the program's Division III era. The Peoria, Ill. native has made 225 carerer free throws and passed Hughley Blanton (1976-80) for ninth place on the list on Thursday.
Feehan needs three more foul shots to tie Michael Sain (1979-83) for eighth place and 15 more free throws to equal Jordan Kindred (2008-13) for seventh place. Negangard owns the all-time Eureka record for free throws made during the Division III era with 417.
Principia is 5-10 through the first three-fifths of the season, including a 4-6 record against SLIAC opponents. The Panthers, who haven't made the SLIAC Tournament since 2005, are two games behind Eureka in the current league standings for the tournament's final spot.
PC has struggled since its Dec. 10 loss at Eureka, dropping six of its last eight contests. Only one of the six losses came in Elsah, an 85-77 setback versus Blackburn on Jan. 3.
Like Eureka, the Panthers boast three big-time scoring threats. Senior guard Adaku Anumu ranks seventh in the SLIAC with an 18.4 scoring average. He's followed by sophomore guard Micah Paulson (14.9 PPG) and junior guard Parker Davidon (14.2 PPG). Despite the trio of guards, Principia ranks eighth in the league with just an average of just 72.1 points per game. PC ranks last in the league with 11.5 assists per game.
The Panthers were chosen to finish ninth in the SLIAC this season, according to a preseason poll conducted by league head coaches. PC went 5-18 overall last season and 2-16 in SLIAC action to finish last in the 10-team league.
One of the smallest colleges in Division III, Principia College has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 460 students. The college is located in the rural village of Elsah, Ill., approximately 35 miles north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.
Principia is a charter member of the SLIAC. The Panthers have qualified for the SLIAC Tournament 10 times since 1991, but have never won a regular-season or tournament title. Their lone SLIAC Tournament victory was a 1994 quarterfinal win over Westminster.
ABOUT THE HEAD COACHES
Chip Wilde is in his 10th season directing the Red Devils. The Macomb, Ill. native has 116 wins at EC, fourth-most in program history.
In all, Wilde has coached two SLIAC Players of the Year, 15 All-SLIAC selections, five SLIAC All-Tournament Team selections, four SLIAC All-Defensive Team picks and 29 SLIAC Player of the Week choices.
Todd Zimmerman is in his first season directing the Panthers after serving as an assistant coach a year ago. Zimmerman also assisted the PC women's basketball program from 2011 until 2014.
A four-year letterwinner in men's basketball at Principia (2007-11), Zimmerman is the Panthers' all-time leader in points (1,556) and assists (431).
SERIES VERSUS PRINCIPIA
Eureka has had control of the series with the Panthers for more than four decades, owning a 40-6 mark against PC since 1974, including an active six-game win streak. The Red Devils are 20-5 in games played in Elsah during that same time frame.
Eureka head coach Chip Wilde owns a 16-3 record against Principia. His 16 wins are tied for the most against any opponent since his start at Eureka in 2007.
LAST TIME VERSUS PRINCIPIA
Kendall Davis produced game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds, helping the Red Devils continue their best start to a season in more than two decades in a 94-86 SLIAC win over Principia at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena at Dec. 10, 2016.
The Eureka lead was as large as 18 (80-62), but the visitors made one final push in the last two minutes of the contest. A 3-point play from TreVaughn Goodman cut the PC deficit to 92-86 with 18 seconds left, but Eureka's Hank Thomas pushed down two free throws on the ensuing possession to set the final margin.
Davis logged his first double-double in a Eureka uniform with 26 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. He also led all players with five assists. Shea Feehan added 22 points on a 6-for-10 effort from beyond the arc. Parker Gibson compiled 15 points and Thomas gave the Red Devils four starters in double figures with 12 points.
Micah Paulson and Goodman scored 19 points apiece in the loss.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Principia will provide live video and live statistics of Saturday's games. Links to both services can be found at EurekaRedDevils.com, sliac.org or by visiting PrincipiaAthletics.com.
The Eureka College media relations staff will provide updates throughout the game via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.