Preview: Red Devils Resume SLIAC Play Wednesday at Webster

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
EUREKA -- Eureka will enter the bulk of its 18-game St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule Wednesday night when the Red Devils visit the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, Mo. for a 7:30 p.m. league game against Webster inside Grant Gymnasium.
 
 
Now in their 13th season as SLIAC rivals, Webster owns an 18-12 record in 30 previous meetings with Eureka. The Red Devils and Gorloks split six non-league matchups from 1986 through 2006 prior to the Red Devils' entry into the SLIAC.
 
ABOUT EUREKA
Eureka is 2-8 through its first 10 games and 1-3 against SLIAC opponents to share sixth place in the current league standings. The Red Devils put the brakes on a four-game skid against NCAA Division III opponents with a 76-73 win at Blackburn on Dec. 15.
 
The Red Devils rank 19th nationally in scoring offense with 90.2 points per game. A trio of Red Devils combine to score more than half of that figure, led by 21.7 points per game from senior guard Hank Thomas. The Peoria native has scored 1,221 career points and ranks sixth on the program's all-time 3-point field goals list with 175 career makes.
 
Dakota Bennington adds 20.4 points per game for EC. Now in his first full season with the Red Devils, Bennington shoots 45 percent from the floor and 84 percent at the free throw line. He also gathers 5.8 rebounds per contest. Junior Austin Juergens delivers 13.4 points and a team-high 7.1 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 will welcome nearly a dozen newcomers to the 2018-19 roster, seven of which will have freshman eligibility.
 
BALANCED EUREKA ATTACK DOWNS BLACKBURN LAST MONTH
All five Eureka starters scored in double figures, including identical 17-point, 5-rebound efforts from Dakota Bennington and Jordan Dehm, allowing the Red Devils to secure their first SLIAC win in a 76-73 decision at Blackburn on Dec. 15 at Dawes Gymnasium in Carlinville, Ill.
 
Both Bennington and Dehm finished 7-for-15 from the floor. Austin Juergens and Alex Wiegand each followed with 12 points and Hank Thomas tacked on 11 points and a game-high five assists. Wiegand blocked three shots.
 
ABOUT WEBSTER
The Gorloks have an 8-3 overall record and join reigning league champion Greenville atop the current SLIAC standings with a perfect 4-0 conference record. Like Eureka, Webster will playing a regular-season contest for the first time since Dec. 15, a layoff of 17 days.
 
WU has outscored its league opposition by an average of more than 10 points per game in wins over Fontbonne, Iowa Wesleyan, MacMurray and Spalding. Three of the four victories have come on the road.
 
Junior guard Josh Johnson shoots 48 percent from 3-point range and gets to the foul line more than six times on average to pace the Gorloks with 17.7 points per game. Classmate Enrique Tankins nets 13.7 points per game and sophomore forward Nigel Wilcox pours 10.1 points per night. Wilcox, a sophomore, is also WU's best rebounder with 7.4 per game.
 
The Gorloks have enjoyed a fair amount of success at the defensive end as well. Led by Wilcox's 2.5 blocked shots per game, WU is 45th in Division III with 4.5 team blocks per contest. Webster also allows just 69.5 points per game, the lowest mark in the SLIAC and 79th-fewest out of more than 400 teams nationally.
 
A charter member of the SLIAC, Webster is the winningest men's basketball program in league history. The Gorloks have won eight SLIAC regular-season titles, including at least a share of the crown in five of the last 12 seasons. Additionally, Webster won SLIAC Tournament championships in 2011 and 2014.
 
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Webster leads the all-time series that dates back to January 1986, 18-12. The Gorloks have won 10 of 15 matchups with the Red Devils in Grant Gymnasium, including five of the last six since January 2013.
 
The Red Devils and Gorloks split last season's annual home-and-home series. Hank Thomas scored 12 points, Alex Wiegand grabbed nine rebounds and the Red Devils went 14-for-29 from beyond the arc in an 81-70 win over WU at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center on Dec. 16, 2017. The 11-point margin of victory was Eureka's largest in the series with the Gorloks in more than seven years.
 
Two Davian Joseph free throws in the waning seconds of the second half proved to be the difference in Webster's 79-78 victory over Eureka last Jan. 31. Eureka held a one-point lead in the final minute, but sent Joseph to the foul line with 13 seconds left. The Red Devils had time to shoot for the win on its ensuing possession but couldn't deliver points before time expired. Thomas scored 15 and Dakota Bennington tallied 13. Eureka went 10-for-20 from 3-point range. Austin Juergens pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.
 
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.
 
One of the longest tenured men's basketball head coaches in the SLIAC, Chris Bunch is in his 17th season at Webster. His record is 252-175. Six of the Gorloks' eight SLIAC championships have come with Bunch on the bench. He is a four-time SLIAC Coach of the Year and piloted the Gorloks to NCAA Tournament berths in 2011 and 2014. 
 
Prior to his appointment at Webster in 2002, the 1988 Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) graduate served as an assistant coach at Maryville (Tenn.).
 
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Webster will provide a live online video broadcast and live statistics of Wednesday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, WebsterAthletics.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.