ELSAH, Ill. — The regular season is winding down for the Eureka men, and that makes every St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game a little more significant than the last.
EC's next challenge is a road contest at Principia on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Yes, the Red Devils picked up their most significant win of this season to date when they took down conference leader Webster on Saturday.
But they have to keep winning to continue their climb up the SLIAC standings. One slip down the stretch, and EC will almost certainly fall out of contention for a conference tourney spot.
Saturday's triumph over the favored Gorloks moved EC to 7-12 — but more importantly 6-7 in the SLIAC, which is good enough for sixth place. Webster (11-2), Greenville (11-2), Spalding (9-5), Westminster (9-5) and Blackburn (8-6) make up the top five.
The Red Devils have won four of their past six games, with the statement win over Webster snapping a two-game skid.
Saturday's victory featured highlights for everyone involved, but none more so than Dakota Bennington, who played like a man possessed during some stretches.
The junior received SLIAC Player of the Week honors for the second time this season on Monday after posting 26 points, 16 rebounds and five assists against the Gorloks. The 6-foot-3 Peoria native is averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game — the third best in the conference. He also has the fourth-most total points (386) and the fifth-most field goals made (140 of 295).
Junior Jordan Dehm posted a double-double (15 points and 10 boards) and senior Hank Thomas had 18 points and eight assists, while senior Donald Hardaway, Jr. and junior Austin Juergens added nine and eight points, respectively.
Thomas is third in the SLIAC in assists (98). Already fifth in program history in 3-pointers made (193) and ninth in total points (1,373), Thomas is five assists away from joining the top 10 in assists as well.
Dehm is fifth in the SLIAC in rebounds per game (8.2), and senior Alex Wiegand has the top field-goal percentage in the league (69.5).
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 nearly a dozen newcomers in the 2018-19 roster, seven of which have freshman eligibility.
Principia has scored victories over Blackburn and MacMurray this season, but other than that, it's been a rough go for the Panthers this season.
They've come close a lot, dropping six single-digit games along the way, including the past three in a row. But they enter with a 2-11 record in the conference and a 3-17 mark overall.
The most recent defeat was an 82-78 loss in the rematch against MacMurray.
Still, the Panthers have one outstanding scorer in Micah Paulson. The 6-foot-1 senior guard leads the conference in scoring, dropping 26 points per game while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 37 percent from outside. He has the most total points by a sizable amount (520 to 279 by Eric Williams of Greenville) and the second most made field goals (173 of 379 attempts).
TreVaughn Goodman follows with 20.2 points per game. A 6-foot-4 junior, Goodman is fourth in field goals made (145 of 254 attempts), field-goal percentage (57.1), rebounds per game (8.9) and total rebounds (169).
Clark Davidson, a 6-foot-5 freshman, is third in the league in field-goal percentage (58.7), rebounds per game (8.9) and total rebounds (179).
As a team, Principia averages 74.9 points per game — 12.4 fewer than Eureka — and allows 87.7 points per game (seventh in the SLIAC).
Principia has been one of Eureka's most frequent men's basketball opponents over the last half century. The Red Devils are 42-8 against the Panthers in that time frame, including a 20-5 mark since becoming SLIAC rivals prior to the 2006-07 season.
Eureka has won eight of the last nine against Principia. The two squads split last season's home-and-home series.
Bennington came off the bench for 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 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 Dehm delivered the contest's only double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
On Jan. 5, the Red Devils came back after trailing by as many as 13 and earned an 87-71 victory. Dehm and Thomas both scored 21 points — a career high for Dehm. Bennington followed with 19.
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 proven 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
Principia will provide a live online video broadcast of Wednesday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com. Amos Arbogast is in his second season directing the Red Devils.