EUREKA, Ill. -- On an afternoon in which more than six dozen former Red Devils will return to campus to be recognized at a halftime ceremony, the Eureka College men's basketball team will host Greenville for a 3 p.m. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tip-off at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
The Red Devils will try to end a two-game skid Saturday, owning a 13-9 record and a 7-8 mark in the conference. Eureka trails Blackburn and Principia by one game in the conference standings for the fourth and final spot in the upcoming SLIAC Tournament.
Eureka leads the 10-team SLIAC in defensive rebounding with 29.5 boards per game. EC also shoots a league-best 77.3 percent from the free throw line and commits only 13.1 turnovers per game, second-lowest in the conference.
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.
ALUMNI CELEBRATION SATURDAY
Eureka College will host a basketball alumni celebration as part of the Red Devils' doubleheader on Saturday. All former basketball players, coaches and managers that attend will be honored during a ceremony at halftime of the men's game.
A postgame reception is scheduled for women's and men's basketball alumni.
MacMURRAY OUTLASTS EUREKA WEDNESDAY
Eureka erased an 11-point deficit and held a two-point lead late in the second half, but MacMurray's Tim Frazier hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute to lift the Highlanders to a 76-73 SLIAC win over the Red Devils, Wednesday night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
The Red Devils led 70-68 after two free throws from Brady Sanders with 1:05 remaining. Frazier answered with his 3 to push MC to a 71-70 lead and the Highlanders would lead for the remainder of the game.
After an EC miss with 24 seconds to play, MacMurray made two more foul shots to extend its lead to 73-70. The Red Devils had a chance to tie on the ensuing possession, but the 3-point field attempt was off the mark. The Highlanders grabbed the rebound and made three of four shots from the free-throw line in the final 11 seconds to clinch the win.
The Highlanders led by as many as 11 in the first 20 minutes, but EC used an 8-0 run to pull within 29-26 when Alex Wiegand hit his third career 3-pointer with 5:08 left before halftime. The EC deficit shrunk to two in the final three minutes before MC carried a 41-33 cushion into the locker room.
Eureka started the second half with a flurry, holding MC scoreless for nearly five minutes while taking a 43-41 lead on Sanders's layup. MacMurray pushed the lead back to eight, 60-52, before Eureka rallied again for a 64-62 cushion on a layup by Kendall Davis with 4:08 to play. The two teams traded the lead four times in the game's final five minutes.
Davis scored 24 points and hauled down seven rebounds for the Red Devils. Sanders and Hank Thomas added 16 apiece.
Greenville is 18-4 this season currently owns a share of first place in the SLIAC standings with a 12-3 record. The Panthers deploy "The System," an unusual strategy that uses full-court pressure, quick offensive sets and frequent mass substitutions in an effort to create a frantic and unusual game tempo for the opponent.
The Panthers lead the nation in scoring, putting up 131.1 points per game. The GC scoring average is more than 14 points greater than Grinnell, the nation's second-ranked scoring offense that made GC's offensive strategy famous. The unique attack also allows GC to lead Division III in offensive rebounds per game (21.0), total rebounds per game (46.4), steals per game (19.2) and turnovers forced per game (29.7).
Six different players score at least 10.5 points per game, led by Kenny Greene's 18.9 average. Shane Smith (18.8), Elmo Smith (17.0) and Michael Holm (14.2) round out GC's top offensive options.
Thirteen different Panthers have played in every game this season and 16 different players have made an appearance in the starting lineup.
The Panthers received a first-place vote in a preseason SLIAC coaches' poll and were picked to finish fourth out of 10 league teams this season.
Greenville shared the SLIAC regular-season championship last season, the Panthers' first league title since 1996. GC, which dropped its SLIAC Tournament semifinal to Westminster a year ago, won its lone SLIAC Tournament crown as the field's fifth seed in 1998.
ABOUT THE HEAD COACHES
Chip Wilde is in his 10th season directing the Red Devils. The Macomb, Ill. native has 117 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.
The 2016-17 season is Dr. George Barber's 18th as head coach at Greenville. The 1986 Asbury graduate also owns coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and was an administrative assistant on Kentucky's 1996 national championship team.
Dr. Barber, who installed "the system" prior to the 2015-16 season, earned his first SLIAC Coach of the Year award in 2016. He is the Panthers' all-time leader in coaching victories with 231.
SERIES VERSUS GREENVILLE
Since joining Division III nearly four decades ago, Greenville has been Eureka's most common men's basketball opponent.
EC is 50-22 against the Panthers since 1974, including a 26-7 record at the Reagan Athletic Complex. The 50 wins against Greenville are the most by the Red Devils against any opponent since Dave Darnall arrived as head coach prior to the 1974-75 campaign.
Saturday's game ends the 11th home-and-home series between EC and GC as SLIAC rivals. Greenville has an 11-10 lead in the conference series.
LAST TIME VERSUS GREENVILLE
Kenny Greene ended the highest scoring game in SLIAC and Eureka history when his desperation heave from half court banked in at the overtime buzzer, sending the Panthers to a 145-142 league win over the Red Devils on Jan. 11. Hank Thomas put up 44 points for EC, the third-highest single-game total in program history.
Thomas was the first Red Devil to score 44 points since Kameron Bell had 44 in a 91-90 EC victory at Rockford on Nov. 18, 2009. Thomas fell three points shy of the single-game Eureka scoring record of 47 set by Bob Strickland against Rose-Hulman on Dec. 7, 1957. Additionally, Eureka was seven points short of tying the single-game program record for team points set in a 149-37 win over Barat (Ill.) on Nov. 29, 1989.
Neither team led by more than three points in the overtime period. The game was tied seven times in the final 3:42. A putback by Alex Wiegand tied the game at 142-142 moments before Green won the game at the horn.
Greene's buzzer beater was the second improbable GC 3-pointer of the night. The Panthers trailed 126-123 when Elmo Smith connected from long range with :03.2 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Eureka's 40-footer at the end of regulation hit the top of the backboard.
The contest featured 17 ties and 14 lead changes. Eureka overcame a 22-point first-half deficit, eventually using a 14-0 run midway through the second half to claim an 82-77 lead.
Kendall Davis added 36 for the Red Devils and Shea Feehan tacked on 23. Brady Sanders had 10 assists. Eureka used 11 different players in the loss, all of which scored and 10 of which played at least eight minutes.
Eureka finished 48-for-85 from the floor and 14-for-29 from 3-point range. The Red Devils outrebounded Greenville, 62-53.
Shane Smith scored 34 to lead the Panthers.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Links to a live video stream and live statistics be available at EurekaRedDevils.com and sliac.org.
The Eureka College media relations staff will provide updates throughout the game via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.