Preview: Red Devils Return Home For Saturday Matinee With Principia

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
EUREKA -- After a 50-day stretch that included only one home game on Dave Darnall Court, Eureka will return to the Reagan Athletic Complex Saturday afternoon for the first time since Dec. 8 for a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup with longtime rival Principia at 3 p.m.
 
 
Eureka and Principia will collide in men's basketball for the 50th time since 1974 on Saturday. The Red Devils are 41-8 against PC in that time frame and have won seven consecutive games against PC in Eureka.
 
ABOUT EUREKA
Eureka is 2-9 this season and 1-4 in SLIAC competition to share seventh place in the current league standings. The Red Devils have faced the league's most challenging schedule through five games. Eureka's first five league opponents have combined for a 19-6 SLIAC record (.760) and occupy the top half of the current league standings.
 
The backcourt duo of senior Hank Thomas and junior Dakota Bennington share the team scoring lead with 20.8 points per game apiece. Bennington shoots 46 percent from the floor and Thomas has been one of the country's most reliable free throw shooters, going 45-for-48 (.938) from the foul line through his first 11 games.
 
Eureka has displayed remarkable offensive balance through its first five outings against SLIAC opponents -- Bennington, Thomas, Alex Wiegand, Jordan Dehm and Austin Juergens have started all five contests and each average at least 11.0 points per contest. Thomas hasn't missed a free throw in 18 attempts against conference foes.
 
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.
 
RED DEVILS CAN'T OVERCOME SLIAC LEADER WEBSTER WEDNESDAY
Dakota Bennington scored 24 points to lead a group of five Eureka starters that scored in double figures for the second consecutive game, but St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference unbeaten Webster didn't trail after halftime and withstood a big EC rally midway through the second half to down the Red Devils 84-76 last Wednesday night at Grant Gymnasium in Webster Groves, Mo.
 
Bennington's effort marked his sixth 20-point game of the season. Jordan Dehm earned the night's only double-double with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Hank Thomas poured in 12 points and distributed nine assists. The Red Devils shot 45 percent (33-for-74) from the field and combined for 20 assists as a team.
 
ABOUT PRINCIPIA
Principia is 2-10 through its first 12 games and joins Eureka in a four-way tie for seventh place in the SLIAC standings with a 1-4 conference mark. 
 
PC opened the season with an 89-76 non-conference win at Knox, followed with 10 consecutive losses over the next 52 days before ending its skid with a 80-68 SLIAC win over MacMurray on Thursday in Elsah.
 
The Panthers rely on a pair of guards to score more than two thirds of their offensive production. Senior Micah Paulson shoots 42 percent from 3-point range en route to a league-leading scoring average of 26.7. Junior guard Trevaughn Goodman adds 23.5 points per game as one of the league's most accurate shooters, making 57 percent of his attempst from the floor. Goodman also leads the team with averages of 8.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
 
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Principia has been one of Eureka's most frequent men's basketball opponents over the last half century. The Red Devils are 41-8 against the Panthers in that time frame, including a 19-5 mark since becoming SLIAC rivals prior to the 2006-07 season.
 
Eureka has won seven of the last nine against Principia. The two squads split last season's home-and-home series. Dakota Bennington came off the bench for19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Hank Thomas tacked on 18 points in the Red Devils' 94-88 setback to the Panthers last Jan. 6 in Elsah. Micah Paulson poured in 34 points in PC's win.
 
The Red Devils roared back in grand fashion one month later at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center, securing a 96-70 league win. Eureka connected from the field at a 51 percent clip, made 10 3-pointers, combined for a 20-for-24 effort at the foul line and outscored PC in bench points, 27-8. Bennington chipped in 16 points and nine boards and Jordan Dehm delivered the contest's only double-double with 15 points and 10 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.
 
Todd Zimmerman is in his third season directing the Panthers and guided PC to its first SLIAC Tournament appearance in 12 years after the 2016-17 season. Zimmerman served as an assistant to both the men's and women's basketball programs at Principia prior to his appointment as head coach.
 
A four-year letterwinner in men's basketball at Principia (2007-11), Zimmerman is the Panthers' all-time leader in points (1,556) and assists (431).
 
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Eureka will provide a live online video broadcast of Saturday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.