EUREKA — A weather postponement gave the Eureka men an unexpected break from competition this past weekend.
It officially ends 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when the Red Devils host Spalding in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
When Eureka dropped an 88-80 game to Spalding on Dec. 1, the Red Devils were still trying to figure out how to play to their potential and win games.
The Red Devils have now won three of their last four and come out on top in three of its past five conference contests. Last Wednesday's 82-73 victory over Iowa Wesleyan moved them to 5-10 on the season and 4-5 in the SLIAC — still in contention for a SLIAC tournament berth.
Thomas, who moved up to fifth on the program's all-time 3-point field goals list in last Sunday's win over MacMurray (184), remains the SLIAC's assists leader (79). He's also third in the nation in free-throw percentage (94.4).
Juniors Jordan Dehm and Austin Juergens contribute 12.5 and 12.1 points per game, respectively, and Dehm is the team's top glass cleaner, pulling down 7.8 boards per game — good for fifth in the conference.
As a team, the Red Devils have the 15th-highest scoring offense in the nation at 89.7 points 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.
Despite not having a winning record, Spalding has won 70 percent of its conference games, falling to SLIAC top dogs Webster (8-1 SLIAC) and Greenville (7-2), as well as Westminster (7-3). The Golden Eagles are heading to Eureka at 8-9 on the season and 7-3 in SLIAC play.
Sophomore guard Marcus Montgomery leads the team a 17.9 points per game average on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.9 percent shooting from outside. Sophomore guard Robert Bendingfield, who has the fourth-most assists in the SLIAC, follows at 11.9 points per game and junior guard Dominique Ellis adds 10.9.
Spalding averages a league-low 68.3 points per game, but it compensates on the defensive end, allowing a league-low 73 points per game.
Spalding University was founded in 1814 in Louisville, Ky., the southernmost school in the 10-team SLIAC. The Golden Eagles joined the league and NCAA Division III in 2009 and became eligible for postseason competition in 2012. The SU men's basketball program has won or shared four SLIAC regular-season championships, as well as SLIAC Tournament championships in 2013 and 2015.
With the win over the Red Devils in December, Spalding snapped a five-game losing streak to EC, and improved to 12-8 over the maroon and gold in the all-time series.
The Golden Eagles led by as many as 15, before the Red Devils put together a second-half comeback bid that fell short in the final 10 minutes.
Spalding dominated the paint, oustcoring EC 42-24, while Benndingfield dropped 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
For Eureka, Thomas posted a team-high 17 points, Alex Wiegand collected a game-high 10 rebounds and Juergens, Dehm and Bennington added 15, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
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.
Longtime coaching veteran Kevin Gray is in his 21st season at Spalding. The Louisville, Ky. native, who was named SLIAC Coach of the Year in 2011, 2013 and 2014, has guided the Golden Eagles to national tournament berths as members of the NAIA, USCAA and NCAA.
Prior to his arrival at Spalding, Gray earned coaching experience as an assistant on various NCAA Division I staffs, including Chattanooga, Alabama and Baylor. He is a 1976 graduate of Chattanooga and was a three-year captain for the Mocs.
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.