Preview: Beavers stand between EC, perfect month at home

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

EUREKA — The Eureka men are unbeaten at home this January.

They've taken St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games against Principia, MacMurray and Spalding. On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the Red Devils can cap a perfect month on Dave Darnall Court with a victory over Blackburn. 

ABOUT EUREKA 

The Red Devils already topped the Beavers once this season. Another win would bring them back to .500 in the SLIAC. Currently 6-11 on the season and 5-6 in the conference, EC has won three of its last four games.

Eureka stayed within striking distance against Westminster on the road on Saturday, but they fell short down the stretch and lost 79-74. Dakota Bennington and Hank Thomas, the team's top scorers, both put up 17 points in the loss.

Bennington, a junior, is the third-leading scorer in the SLIAC, averaging 21.1 points per game. Thomas, a senior guard who posts 19.9 points per game, is third in the league in assists (88). He's also fifth in program history in 3-pointers made (190) and ninth in total points (1,342).

Senior Alex Wiegand continues to lead the SLIAC in field-goal percentage, shooting a cool 70.7 percent on 4.4 attempts per game, while junior Jordan Dehm collects 8.1 boards per game — the fifth-best rate in the league.

Dehm and fellow junior Austin Juergens combine for over 25 points per game.

The Red Devils are the 19th highest-scoring team in the nation at 88.1 points per game, and the second-highest scoring squad in the conference behind Greenville. They're second in the SLIAC in free-throw percentage (76.8), assists per game (18 per game) and fewest turnovers committed (14.1 per game), third in rebounds per game (40.1) and fourth in 3-point percentage (33.7),

All told, Eureka features 10 returning letterwinners and four players who started at least five games for last season's team, which went 18-8 overall and finished as SLIAC runner-up with a 13-5 league record. The Red Devils have nearly a dozen newcomers on the 2018-19 roster, seven of which have freshman eligibility.

ABOUT BLACKBURN

Blackburn is currently sitting where Eureka wants to be at the end of Thursday night: the middle of the SLIAC field with a .500 record.

At 9-10 on the season and 6-6 in the SLIAC, the Beavers have been all over the place during the 2018-19 campaign.

In addition to losing to Eureka, they've dropped two to second-place Greenville and fallen to third-place Spalding —and lost to conference bottom dwellers Principia and MacMurray.

But on the other side of the ledger, the Beavers have handed Webster its only conference loss, swept fourth-place Westminster, avenged its loss to MacMurray and taken care of business against Iowa Wesleyan and edged Fontbonne.

With a résumé like that, it's hard to know what to expect.

Nevertheless, you can count on the Beavers to put points on the board. They're third in the league with 84.8 points per game — only 3.3 less than EC.

They own the highest 3-point percentage in the SLIAC (40.6), the second-highest steals per game average (10 points per game) and the third-highest free-throw percentage (71.4).

Junior guard Karson Hayes (20.1 points per game) tends to carry the load offensively. He's tallied the third-most points in the SLIAC (381) and hit the fifth-most field goals (123 of 265 attempts).

Senior Duncan King (13.3) and junior Rashaun Amos (11.1) both average double figures.

RECENT HISTORY

The Red Devils are 40-19 against the Beavers since 1974, including a 20-6 mark since becoming SLIAC foes prior to the 2006-07 campaign.

Last season, Blackburn took two of three contests against EC, including the semifinals of the SLIAC Tournament on Feb. 22, 2018. The Beavers grinded out an 86-80 win in overtime at Greenville.

Earlier this season, however, the Red Devils got the edge in a 76-73 victory that went down to the wire.

For Eureka, Bennington and Dehm both notched 17 points and five rebounds. Juergens and Wiegand added 12 and Thomas followed with 11, along with five assists.

Hayes finished with a team-high 16 points for the Beavers, and Chanz Aldridge chipped in with 11.

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.

The 2018-19 season is Steve Kollar's fourth as head coach at Blackburn. He was the SLIAC Co-Coach of the Year in 2017-18 after leading the Beavers to their first SLIAC Tournament berth since 2006 and their first championship game appearance since 2005.

Kollar is a 2005 graduate of Elmhurst where he played for Eureka College Hall of Famer Mark Scherer. Kollar owns prior coaching experience as an assistant at St. Francis (Ill.) and Benedictine.

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

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