JOLIET, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball team will return to the court Tuesday afternoon in a 1 p.m. non-conference bout with NAIA Division II St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. The game is Eureka's first since a Dec. 10 win over Principia.
AT A GLANCE
Location: Joliet, Ill.
Site: Pat Sullivan Center
Series Since 1974: None
EUREKA RED DEVILS
Record: 7-1, 2-1 SLIAC
Head Coach: Chip Wilde, 10th season (Western Illinois '91)
ST. FRANCIS FIGHTING SAINTS
Record: 7-5, 4-2 CCAC
Head Coach: Ryan Marks, 4th season (Southern California '93)
FOLLOW THE GAME
Live Video: gofightingsaints.com
Live Stats: gofightingsaints.com
Eureka is 7-1 overall through its first eight games. Included in that stretch is a perfect 5-0 non-conference record, including road victories over Dominican and Knox. A win on Tuesday would keep the Red Devils on track to post their first unbeaten non-conference slate since beginning conference-affiliated play at the Division III level in 1996.
The Red Devils employ a high-powered offense, ranking 11th nationally with 91.5 points per game. The attack is led by duo of sophomore Shea Feehan and junior Kendall Davis. Feehan ranks second in Division III with 29.9 points per game. He also ranks fourth in free throws made (68) and eighth in 3-pointers made per game (3.88). Davis joins Feehan among the national scoring leaders, ranking ninth with 25.1 points per game.
In addition to all the scoring, the Eureka offense protects the ball to the tune of a 1.41 assist-to-turnover ratio, tops among SLIAC schools and 22nd-best in the country. EC commits only 11.1 turnovers per game.
League coaches picked Eureka to finish eighth during a poll conducted before the start of the season.
The Red Devils return two full-time starters and 10 letterwinners overall from last season's team that went 12-13 overall and 10-8 in the SLIAC to tie for third place in the final league standings. Sixteen newcomers have joined the program, including nine first-year freshmen, to give EC a roster size of 26 student-athletes.
MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM
Eureka's 7-1 start is its best through eight games since the 1993-94 season. This season marks the eighth time of Eureka's NCAA Division III era the Red Devils have started 7-1 or better.
In the previous seven instances, Eureka went on to win 20 games or more six times and qualified for three national tournaments, including the NAIA Division II national title in 1994.
ABOUT ST. FRANCIS
The Fighting Saints are 7-5 through their first 12 games, including an 80-69 win over NCAA Division III member Kalamazoo on Dec. 5 in Joliet.
Seven players have appeared in all 12 games and 12 players have made at least three appearances. Jo Jo Ballestero, a senior from Anaheim, Calif., leads USF in scoring with 15.1 points per game thanks to a 42 percent mark (35-for-83) from 3-point range. He is also an excellent free throw shooter, making 30 of 32 attempts this season.
Junior Iain Morison (13.9) and senior Landus Anderson (10.1) also score in double figures for the Fighting Saints. Senior Logan Timmons is the team's top rebounder at 7.0 per contest.
Through 12 games, USF has scored 930 points and allowed 930 points, an identical 77.5 average per game. The Fighting Saints shoot 44.4 percent from the floor, 36 percent from 3-point range and 72 percent from the free throw line.
St. Francis competes in the 15-tem Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, a brief previous conference home of the Red Devils. The USF roster features players from six different states as well as France, England and Australia.
ABOUT THE HEAD COACHES
Chip Wilde is in his 10th season directing the Red Devils. The Macomb, Ill. native has 111 wins at EC, fourth-most in program history.
In all, Wilde has coached two SLIAC Players of the Year, 15 All-SLIAC selections, five SLIAC All-Tournament Team selections, four SLIAC All-Defensive Team picks and 29 SLIAC Player of the Week choices.
Ryan Marks, a 1993 graduate of Southern California, was hired at St. Francis prior to the 2013-14 season. The two-time Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year guided the Fighting Saints to program's first-ever NAIA No. 1 ranking last season and a berth in the NAIA national tournament. He is 73-34 overall at USF.
Marks is no stranger to the Red Devils. He coached Texas-Rio Grande Valley, then known as Texas-Pan American, to a 92-64 win over Eureka on Dec. 13, 2012 in Edinboro, Texas.
SERIES VERSUS ST. FRANCIS
The Red Devils and Fightings Saints will be meeting in men's basketball for the first time on record, Monday.
AGAINST THE NAIA
Tuesday's game at St. Francis will be Eureka's first against an active NAIA school since defeating new NAIA member Lincoln Christian two seasons ago, a 75-37 win on Feb. 16, 2015.
Prior to the 2015 win over the Red Lions, Eureka went more than a decade without squaring off against an active NAIA school. That prior meeting was an 86-83 win over Robert Morris-Chicago on Jan. 18, 2003.
Eureka, of course, was a longtime member of the NAIA while holding dual membership with the NCAA for nearly two decades. EC qualified for four NAIA national tournaments in men's basketball (1987, 1992, 1993, 1994) and also made two NAIA football playoff appearances (1991, 1994).
Eureka dropped its NAIA membership more than two decades ago, beginning an exclusive affiliation with NCAA Division III in the now-defunct Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference at the start of the 1996-97 academic year. Eureka joined the SLIAC when the NIIC folded after the 2005-06 academic year.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
St. Francis will provide a live video stream and live statistics of the game on Tuesday. Visit USF's official athletics website (gofightingsaints.com) or EurekaRedDevils.com for links to each service.
The Eureka College media relations staff will provide updates throughout the game via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.
DEC. 17 GAME AT WEBSTER POSTPONED
Eureka's game scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17 at Webster has been postponed and rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. in St. Louis, Mo.
RED DEVILS BEAT PRINCIPIA
Kendall Davis produced game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds, helping the Red Devils continue their best start to a season in more than two decades in a 94-86 SLIAC win over Principia at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena on Dec. 10.
Neither team led by more than four points until Eureka used a 9-0 run to grab a 25-17 cushion at the 8:37 mark of the half. The EC advantage eventually ballooned to 10 (32-22) on a 3-point field goal from sophomore Shea Feehan, but the visitors closed the gap over the final 4:40 of the half to trail at the break, 38-34.
The Red Devils promptly pushed their lead back to 10 on a bucket from Davis for a 44-34 cushion just 77 seconds into the second period. Moments later, Feehan's triple capped a quick 7-0 blitz from the hosts for a 51-36 margin with 17:11 left.
Principia got back within six (59-53) when Adaku Anumu scored with 13:03 remaining, but Eureka answered with baskets on four consecutive possessions to extend its advantage to 74-57 after another Feehan 3-pointer with 9:33 left.
The Eureka lead was as large as 18 (80-62), but the visitors made one final push in the last two minutes of the contest. A 3-point play from TreVaughn Goodman cut the PC deficit to 92-86 with 18 seconds left, but Eureka's Hank Thomas pushed down two free throws on the ensuing possession to set the final margin.
Davis logged his first double-double in a Eureka uniform with 26 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. He also led all players with five assists. Feehan added 22 points on a 6-for-10 effort from beyond the arc. Senior forward Parker Gibson compiled 15 points and Thomas gave the Red Devils four starters in double figures with 12 points.