Preview: Eureka, Westminster Renew SLIAC Rivalry Saturday

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

EUREKA -- Following a 15-day stretch that included five contests away from home, Eureka will play in front of the Reagan Athletic Complex crowd for the first time since Nov. 15 in Saturday's St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference clash with longtime rival Westminster at 3 p.m.

PDF Version of Eureka/Westminster Pregame Notes

The Red Devils and Blue Jays will be meeting in men's basketball for the 41st time since 1988. Eureka is in search of its first three-game win streak in the all-time series.
 
ABOUT EUREKA
Eureka is 1-7 overall and 0-2 in the SLIAC through the first third of the season.
 
The Red Devils have one of the league's top offenses, ranking among the top three in the SLIAC in points per game (94.3), 3-pointers made per game (9.8), free throws made per game (21.3, free throw percentage (.787) and assists per game (20.1).
 
Hank Thomas scores 23.1 points per game to lead the Red Devils. He needs 11 points to reach 1,200 for his career and 127 more points to crack Eureka's all-time 10 list. Dakota Bennington follows with 22.6 points per contest and Austin Juergens pours in 13.4 points on average. Juergens is also the Red Devils' leading rebounder with 7.3 boards 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 will welcome nearly a dozen newcomers to the 2018-19 roster, seven of which will have freshman eligibility.
 
SPALDING STAVES OFF SECOND-HALF EUREKA RALLY LAST WEEKEND
Hank Thomas scored 17 points to lead a group of four Eureka starters in double figures and Alex Wiegand collected a game-high 10 rebounds, but a big second-half rally couldn't erase an early deficit in the Red Devils' 88-80 SLIAC defeat at Spalding last Saturday afternoon at Columbia Gym in Louisville, Ky.
 
Thomas was joined by Austin Juergens with 15 points, Jordan Dehm with 13 points and Dakota Bennington with 12.
 
ABOUT WESTMINSTER
Westminster owns a 2-5 overall record through its first seven games, including a 1-1 league mark. The Blue Jays earned a 76-70 non-conference victory over Ozarks (Ark.) on Nov. 24 and later downed Iowa Wesleyan 77-72 in the SLIAC opener on Nov. 28. WC is 0-3 in true road contests this season, including a 73-62 setback at Blackburn last Saturday.
 
The Blue Jays score 70.0 points per game and deploy a more deliberate tempo, taking a league-low 55.1 field goal attempts per game. The style allows WC to commit just 13.4 turnovers per game. Westminster has been crushed on the glass through its first seven outings, gathering just 26.6 boards per game and being outrebounded by an average of 15.0 rebounds per game.
 
Senior forward Romo Tabb is the Blue Jays' top scorer with 16.9 points per game on 47 percent shooting. He also leads WC with 6.4 rebounds per game. Junior guard Kobe Wands follows Tabb at the offensive end with 14.4 points per night.
 
Westminster has won two of the last three SLIAC Tournament championships. In all, the Blue Jays have qualified for 19 SLIAC Tournaments, most in league history.
 
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Eureka and Westminster have met 40 times in men's basketball since January 1988. The Blue Jays lead the all-time series, 24-16, including a 19-8 mark since the two schools become SLIAC rivals prior to the 2006-07 season. EC and WC have met three times in the SLIAC Tournament (2010, 2012, 2013), including a 77-72 victory for the Red Devils in the 2013 semifinals.
 
The Red Devils swept the home-and-home season series for the first time last winter with a pair of lopsided wins. EC earned its largest margin of victory in the series since 1994 last Jan. 10 with a 95-59 win in Fulton. Dakota Bennington scored 25 points off the bench. The Red Devils shot 59 percent as a team. Alex Wiegand and Hank Thomas also reached double figures for Eureka with 12 points apiece. The Red Devils did much of their damage at the free throw line, delivering a 26-for-30 team effort. A total of 13 Red Devils saw minutes in the victory, 11 of which made a field goal.
 
Eureka also won the rematch at the Reagan Athletic Complex last Feb. 10, a 91-59 romp that included double-doubles from Bennington and Jordan Dehm. Bennington led all scorers with 17 points and hauled down a career-high 17 boards. Dehm tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas poured in 16 points and Austin Juergens scored 12 off the bench. Eureka overwhelmed the Blue Jays on the glass, 57-33, and outscored WC in the paint, 38-26.
 
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.
 
Matt Mitchell is currently in his 21st 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 EC head coach Chip Wilde as assistants at WIU during the 1988-89 season, also serves at WC's Director of Athletics.
 
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Eureka will provide a live online video broadcast and live real-time statistics of Saturday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.