Preview: Eureka and Spalding to Collide Saturday in Louisville

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

EUREKA – Eureka will play its second game in the state of Kentucky in a 15-day span when the Red Devils take their longest annual St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference road trip Saturday for a 2 p.m. CT contest against Spalding.

ABOUT EUREKA

Eureka is 1-6 overall and 0-1 in the SLIAC. Saturday's game marks Eureka's fifth consecutive game away from home since Nov. 17 at Berea.

The Red Devils average 96.3 points per game, second-most in the league. EC does a fair amount of damage from the foul line, making 21.7 free throws per contest as the SLIAC's most accurate free-throw shooting team at 79 percent. Eureka also averages 20.3 assists per game as a team.

Junior Dakota Bennington (24.3 PPG) and senior Hank Thomas (24.0 PPG) combine to score 48.3 points per game. Junior Austin Juergens adds 13.1 points per contest. All three players shoot 83 percent or better at the free throw line. Juergens also paces the Red Devils with 7.3 rebounds per game.

Eureka returns 10 letterwinners and four players that started at least five games from last season's team that went 18-8 overall and finished as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference runner-up with a 13-5 league record. The Red Devils have welcomed nearly a dozen newcomers to the 2018-19 roster, seven of which will have freshman eligibility.

GREENVILLE OUTPACES GREENVILLE WEDNESDAY

Playing at Greenville for the fourth time since the Panthers introduced their frantic, up-tempo style, Eureka dropped a 139-126 SLIAC contest Wednesday night at H.J. Long Gymnasium. The game was the first league competition of the season for both teams.

Hank Thomas stuffed the stat sheet with 34 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Dakota Bennington fell one board shy of a double-double with 32 points and nine rebounds and Jordan Dehm set a new career high with 13 rebounds. The Red Devils shot 61 percent from the floor and scored 82 points in the paint.

ABOUT SPALDING

The Golden Eagles are 1-3 through the season's first three weeks, earning their first win of the campaign in Thursday's 78-61 SLIAC victory at Principia.

SU scores a league-low 58.5 points per game. The Golden Eagles also shoot a league-worst 38 percent from the floor and make just 6.8 free throws per game.

Junior guard Dominique Ellis shoots 46 percent from the floor en route to a team-high 14.0 points per game. Sophomores Marcus Montgomery (11.3) and Robert Bendingfield (11.0) also average double figures at the offensive end. Freshman forward Troy Amanor is SU's top rebounder with 5.8 per game while Bendingfield earns 2.5 steals on average.

Spalding University was founded in 1814 in Louisville, Ky., the southernmost school in the 10-team SLIAC. The Golden Eagles joined the league and NCAA Division III in 2009 and became eligible for postseason competition in 2012. The SU men's basketball program has won or shared four SLIAC regular-season championships as well as SLIAC Tournament championships in 2013 and 2015.

THE ALL-TIME SERIES

Spalding owns an 11-8 record in the all-time series with the Red Devils, but EC has won five in a row over SU since January 2016.

Eureka has won back-to-back contests over the Golden Eagles in Louisville, including an 82-71 win last February. The victory capped the Red Devils' second consecutive season series sweep of Spalding after a 77-58 triumph at the Reagan Athletic Complex on Jan. 3, 2018.

Eureka and Spalding have met one time in the SLIAC Tournament. The Golden Eagles won in overtime over EC in Louisville in the league's 2013 championship game, a 64-62 final.

MEET THE HEAD COACHES

The owner of nearly three decades of coaching experience at the collegiate level, Chip Wilde is in his 12th season as head coach of the Eureka College men's basketball team in 2018-19. The current campaign marks Wilde's 21st 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 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference both on the court and in the classroom. Wilde entered the 2018-19 campaign with 135 wins, fourth-most in the century-long history of the program.

Longtime coaching veteran Kevin Gray is in his 21st season at Spalding. The Louisville, Ky. native, who was named SLIAC Coach of the Year in 2011, 2013 and 2014, has guided the Golden Eagles to national tournament berths as members of the NAIA, USCAA and NCAA.

Prior to his arrival at Spalding, Gray earned coaching experience as an assistant on various NCAA Division I staffs, including Chattanooga, Alabama and Baylor. He is a 1976 graduate of Chattanooga and was a three-year captain for the Mocs.

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

Spalding will provide a live online video broadcast of Saturday's game. Links will be available at SpaldingAthletics.com, EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.