Preview: Eureka, Greenville Ready For Saturday Clash

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

GREENVILLE, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball team will begin the second half of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule Saturday afternoon when the league-leading Red Devils visit reigning SLIAC champion Greenville for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

ABOUT EUREKA
The Red Devils improved to 12-4 overall and maintained sole possession of first place in the SLIAC with a 7-2 mark after Wednesday's 84-78 win over Fontbonne in St. Louis. Eureka, which trailed by as many as 15 points in the win at Fontbonne, has won six of its last eight outings since Dec. 16 and owns the program's best record through 16 games since the 1993-94 team opened 13-3.
 
Eureka is on pace to challenge the program's single-season team scoring record for the second consecutive campaign, putting up 90.1 points per game and hitting the century mark fives times in the first 16 games. The Red Devils are the SLIAC's most accurate 3-point shooting team (38.4%), as well as the league's most accurate free-throw shooting team (76.8%).
 
The bulk of the scoring comes from Eureka guards Shea Feehan and Hank Thomas. Feehan is on his way to breaking his own single-season Eureka record for points per game with 31.1 and will also likely challenge the program's single-season record for total points of 653 set by former All-American Chris Peterson in 1993-94. Feehan also has 1,394 career points and moved into seventh place on the Red Devils' all-time scoring list.
 
Thomas has also scored in bunches, putting up 18.1 points per game and shooting 43 percent from the floor. The Peoria Richwoods product needs 142 points over the next nine regular-season games to join Feehan in EC's 1,000-point club.
 
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.
 
FEEHAN'S BIG GAME SINKS FONTBONNE IN ST. LOUIS
Shea Feehan erupted for 44 points, his third 40-point game of the season and the fourth of his three-year EC career, helping the Red Devils erase a 15-point first-half deficit and secure an 84-78 SLIAC victory at Fontbonne, Wednesday night in St. Louis, Mo.
 
Eureka trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, but faced only a 45-43 deficit at halftime. Fontbonne ultimately led as late as the 6:47 mark of the second half before a Hank Thomas jump shot marked the final lead change of the night and allowed EC to lead 69-68. FBU tied the Red Devils two more times, including a 76-76 deadlock with 3:39 remaining. Feehan's layup just eight seconds later triggered a run of six consecutive EC points and the Griffins wouldn't shoot with a chance to tie or take the lead again.
 
Dakota Bennington delivered 14 points off the bench. He made all eight of his free throw attempts. Thomas scored 12. Eureka, which entered Wednesday's game as the 24th-most accurate free throw shooting team in Division III, went 25-for-30 from the line in the win.
 
ABOUT GREENVILLE
Greenville has won back-to-back games to bump its overall season record to 9-6. The Panthers are also 6-2 in conference action to trail the first-place Red Devils by a single game in the win column. GU is unbeaten at home this season, winning games against Knox, Westminster, MacMurray and Principia by an average of 14.0 points per game.
 
GU is in its third season using "The System," an unusual strategy that uses full-court pressure, quick offensive sets and frequent mass substitutions. The Panthers currently lead the nation in scoring offense (125.5), 3-pointers made (295) and total steals (264) and also led Division III in each of those categories the previous two seasons.
 
Fifteen Panthers have played in at least 10 games this season, 13 players have played at least 100 minutes and eight players have started at least five games. The Panthers' frequent five-man substitutions have ensured that no player has exceeded 19.6 minutes of action per game -- but seven players average double-digit point production.
 
Junior guard Johari Dix leads the way with 19.1 points per game, followed by Rakim Murphy at 16.8 and Sonti Grady and 15.3. GU's top six scorers all shoot at least 40 percent from the floor and four of them connect from 3-point range at 40.7 percent or better, including a team-high 47.5 percent from Grady.
 
The strategic combincation made famous by NCAA Division III Grinnell is done in an effort to create a frantic and unusual game tempo for the opponent -- but it also causes the Panthers to allow points in bunches as well. Opponents are averaging 123.2 points per game and shoot 59.4 percent from the floor.
 
THE SERIES VERSUS GREENVILLE
Eureka and Greenville will meet Saturday in men's basketball for the 75th time since 1974. The Panthers are the Red Devils' most frequent opponent in that time frame.
 
The Red Devils are 51-23 against GU in their last 74 matchups, including a 22-13 mark in games played in Greenville. Saturday's game is the 24th between the two schools since the Red Devils joined the SLIAC in 2006. Greenville has a 12-11 lead in the conference series. The Red Devils and Panthers played to the two highest scoring games in SLIAC history last season. 
 
Eureka has won three of five meetings with Greenville since GU switched to "The System", including a 131-109 victory at the Reagan Athletic Complex on Nov. 29. Seven Red Devils scored in double figures, most notably a game-high 34 points from Shea Feehan. Alex Wiegand had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Jordan Dehm also logged a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards and Brady Sanders gave the hosts three double-doubles with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.
 
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 128  wins at EC, third-most in the 99-year history of the program.
 
The 2017-18 season is Dr. George Barber's 19th 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 and led GU to at least a share of the last two SLIAC regular-season championships. He is the Panthers' all-time leader in coaching victories with 243.