Preview: SLIAC Road Trip Continues Wednesday at Westminster

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.

FULTON, Mo. -- The Eureka College men's basketball team will take its longest mid-week road trip of the 2017-18 season Wednesday for an 8 p.m. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference bout with league leader Westminster in Fulton, Mo.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

ABOUT EUREKA
The Red Devils are 9-4 overall and 4-2 against SLIAC opponents to own a share of a four-way tie for second place in the conference standings. Eureka is aiming to return to the win column and win on the road for the first time since Dec. 2 after falling 94-88 at Principia last Saturday.
 
Eureka will take the nation's 18th-ranked scoring offense to Missouri on Wednesday, pumping in 88.7 points per game. The Red Devils are the league's most accurate free-throw shooting team (.760) and also rank among the SLIAC team leaders with 9.7 3-pointers per game and a .382 3-point field goal percentage. Additionally, Eureka continues to pace the 10-team SLIAC with 33.5 defensive rebounds per game.
 
Junior guard Shea Feehan became the 10th player in program history to reach 1,300 points and the first since Michael Zasada in 2010 with his 28-point effort over the weekend at Principia. He ranks 40th among active NCAA Division III scorers and needs 17 more points to move ahead of Bob Strickland (1954-58) for ninth place on the program's all-time scoring list.
 
Sophomore transfer Dakota Bennington has contributed nicely since his arrival to the rotation. The Peoria Christian product is averaging 11.3 points in four reserve appearances and equaled a personal best with 19 points Saturday at Principia.
 
The Red Devils are in their 40th season as a member of NCAA Division III and their 12th season as a member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Eureka returns three starters, all juniors, from last season's 13-win team that broke the program's single-season record for team scoring with 90.5 points per game. In all, EC returns 18 letterwinners from last season.
 
PRINCIPIA STOPS RED DEVILS SATURDAY
Eureka rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit and held the lead as late as the 6:46 mark of the second half last Saturday afternoon at Principia, but the host Panthers held off the visitors' late push to secure a 94-88 SLIAC victory over the Red Devils in Elsah, Ill.
 
Eureka trailed 52-44 at halftime and used a 7-0 burst to pull even, 67-67, on a 3-pointer from Dakota Bennington with 9:36 to go. Bennington scored again at the 7:50 mark to extend the EC advantage to three, but Micah Paulson answered with a triple to force a 71-71 tie and Eureka wouldn't lead again.
 
The Red Devils trailed 87-85 and had possession with 1:18 left, but the Panthers rebounded a Eureka miss and got two free throws to push their back to four.
 
Shea Feehan scored 28 for EC,. Dakota Bennington came off the bench to equal a career high with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Hank Thomas tacked on 18 points. Ryan McElmurry finished with eight assists, one shy of tying his personal best, and Dehm swatted three blocked shots.
 
ABOUT WESTMINSTER
Westminster has won six of its last seven games for a 9-4 overall record and a 5-1 mark in the SLIAC. The Blue Jays moved into sole possession of first place in the league standings after last Saturday's 87-82 win at Iowa Wesleyan.
 
Kobe Wands, a sophomore guard from Rolla, Mo., leads the Blue Jays and ranks seventh in the SLIAC with 19.3 points per game in 11 starts. He shoots 45 percent from the floor and 80 percent at the foul line. Junior forward Stu Hollandsworth has appeared in all 13 contests and is next on the WC scoring list with 11.3 points per contest. He is also the Blue Jays' best rebounder at 4.5 per game, but Westminster ranks 397th nationally with a minus-8.5 rebounding margin. 
 
Much of Westminster's success comes from its advantage in the turnover battle. WC takes care of the ball extremely well and commits only 10.4 turnovers per game, third-fewest in Division III. At the other end of the floor, the Blue Jays have compiled 10.6 steals per game to rank 19th nationally.
 
Westminster has won the last two SLIAC Tournament championships. In all, the Blue Jays have qualified for 18 SLIAC Tournaments, tied with in-state rival Webster for most in league history. The Blue Jays have won 20 league tournament games, more than any school in SLIAC history, 
 
THE SERIES VERSUS WESTMINSTER
The Blue Jays are 24-14 in 38 previous meetings with Eureka since January 1988, including a 14-4 record inside Westminster Gymnasium. 
 
WC leads the series 19-6 since the two schools became SLIAC rivals in 2006 and has won 13 of the last 14 in Fulton since Jan. 4, 2001. The Blue Jays swept last season's home-and-home series with a pair of wins in the month of February.
 
Eureka and Westminster have squared off in the SLIAC Tournament in three of the last eight seasons. The Blue Jays downed Eureka in Fulton in the 2010 championship game, 74-67, and also ousted EC, 74-60, in the 2012 semifinals in St. Louis, Mo.. The Red Devils found redemption one year later with a 77-72 triumph over WC in the 2013 semifinal round in Louisville, Ky.
 
MEET THE HEAD COACHES
The owner of more than two decades of coaching experience at the collegiate level, Chip Wilde is in his 11th season as head coach at Eureka. The current campaign marks Wilde's 20th season as a collegiate basketball head coach.
 
Wilde has proved to be one of the most successful head coaches in the storied history of Eureka men's basketball, establishing the Red Devils as a steady presence in the SLIAC both on the court and in the classroom. Wilde has 125 wins, third-most in the 99-year history of the program.
 
Matt Mitchell is currently in his 20th season directing the Blue Jays. The three-time SLIAC Coach of the Year has led WC to three SLIAC regular season championships, as well as the SLIAC Tournament titles in 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2017.
 
The Lexington, Mo. native played collegiately for Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson at Arkansas before earning his undergraduate degree from UA in 1987. He owns a master's degree from Western Illinois. Mitchell, who worked alongside Eureka head coach Chip Wilde as assistants at Western Illinois during the 1988-89 season, also serves at WC's Senior Director of Athletic Advancement.
 
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Westminster will provide a live video broadcast and live statistics of Wednesday's game. Links to both services will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com. WCBlueJays.com, sliac.org and D3hoops.com.