Preview: Eureka Men Ready to Renew Rivalry with MacMurray

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

EUREKA — On Sunday, the Eureka and MacMurray men will renew one of the SLIAC's most even rivalries.

Through 55 games, the Highlanders hold a 28-27 edge in the all-time series. Eureka's bid to even it will tip off at 7 p.m. inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.

ABOUT EUREKA

Back home after a nine-point road loss to Fontbonne on Wednesday, Eureka is looking to earn its second straight home win. The Red Devils took care of Principia in an 87-71 victory on Dave Darnall Court last Saturday.

On Wednesday, they threatened to come back from down 18 points in the second half, but Fontbonne managed to hold them off after the Red Devils came within four in the final three minutes.

Now, they're 3-10 on the season and 2-5 in the SLIAC, eager to get back in the win column.

On Wednesday, junior Dakota Bennington shot 12 for 17 from the field en route to a game-high 29 points. His 21.2 points per game ranks fifth in the conference.

Senior Hank Thomas is the SLIAC's assists leader (75), and is 56-for-59 from the free-throw line this season – third in the nation. In the Fontbonne game, Thomas delivered 26 points, along with a team-high nine assists.

Together, the backcourt duo averages 42.5 points per game. Juniors Austin Juergens and Jordan Dehm follow with 12.2 and 11.3, respectively. Those two combine to pull down 13 boards per game.  

Senior Alex Wiegand has been the most economical offensive player in the SLIAC this season, shooting just below 70 percent from the field (69.8) while shooting 4.8 times per game.

All told, Eureka feature 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 the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 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 MACMURRAY

MacMurray has its sights set on its second SLIAC win this season. The Highlanders took down Blackburn in their conference opener in November and have fallen short in every attempt since then. MacMurray  enters this weekend's showdown 4-10 on the season and 1-6 in the SLIAC, sitting at the bottom of the conference standings with Principia.

The Highlanders most recently fell to Spalding 88-74 on Wednesday. Derek Bourke and Wade Fox posted double-doubles in the loss. The former tallied 16 points and 10 boards, while the latter had 10 and 12. Trevor Voss added 15 points off the bench and Connor Vincent chipped in with 11.

The team has five players who average between 9.8 and 12.1 points.

Connor, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, and 6-foot-7 center freshman Logan Dorethy both average 12.1 per game. Dorethy is fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage, and he's done it primarily coming off the bench, averaging 20.2 minutes per game.

As a team, the Highlanders average 71.9 points — 17.4 points fewer than Eureka.

RECENT HISTORY

MacMurray has taken three of the last four meetings with Eureka, splitting with the Red Devils last season and sweeping them in 2016-2017.

Last season, Eureka pulled away late for an 82-66 victory in the first go-around. Thomas tacked on 25 points and Dehm racked up a team-high nine rebounds.

Later in the season, though, MacMurray nipped EC in an 88-87 conference battle that came down to the last play of the game. Bennington contributed 15 points in the loss.

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 Creal is in his 12th season at the helm for MacMurray. He was the SLIAC Coach of the Year in 2019-10 and 2014-15, and in 2015-2016, he led the Highlanders to the program's first regular-season conference title in 10 years.

Prior to his time in Jacksonville, Creal was an assistant coach at Millikin University and Illinois College. He played for Lewis and Clark Community College and graduated from Illinois College.

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.