EUREKA — On Monday, the Eureka men will have an opportunity to see how far they've come since the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season began.
The Red Devils will host three-time defending SLIAC champion Greenville at 7:30 p.m. inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
When Greenville dispatched Eureka in a 139-126 shootout to kick off the SLIAC season in November, the Red Devils were in the midst of a 1-7 start to the season. The situation has stabilized since then.
The Red Devils are one win away from climbing back to .500 in the SLIAC, and have won five of their last eight games. With Saturday's 116-91 triumph over Fontbonne — the team's second straight home win over a team that handed them a loss earlier this season —EC moved to 8-13 overall.
After collecting SLIAC Player of the Week honors last week, junior Dakota Bennington went off for a new career high Saturday, notching 40 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field, 4-for-6 from distance and 10-for-11 from the free-throw line. He's the SLIAC's third-leading scorer, averaging 22.6 points per game while shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
Senior Hank Thomas, who's second in the SLIAC in assists with 109 on the season, moved into the top 10 in program history in assists (272) — and leapfrogged Jon Guderjan for eighth-place on the scoring list (1,413 total points).
Junior Austin Juergens had one of the most efficient all-around performances of his career against Fontbonne, tallying a career-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, gathering five boards and distributing five assists in 20 turnover-free minutes.
Bennington, Thomas (19.5), Juergens (12.8) and junior Jordan Dehm all average double figures for the Red Devils. Dehm is also fifth in the SLIAC in rebounds per game (8.1), and senior and four-year starter Alex Wiegand contributes eight points per game while leading the league in field-goal percentage (69.5).
EC is currently second behind Greenville and 26th in Division III in points per game (88.2) while shooting 45 percent from the floor (fifth-best in the SLIAC). The Red Devils are second in the league behind Greenville in rebounds per game (40.7) and third behind Greenville and MacMurray in assists per game (18.8). They also currently have the second-best free-throw shooting percentage in the conference (76.4).
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 welcomed nearly a dozen newcomers to the 2018-19 roster, seven of which have freshman eligibility.
Now in its fourth season of running the helter-skelter Grinnell system, Greenville remains committed to outgunning and overwhelming everyone in their path.
And, in the SLIAC in particular, it's been working. The Panthers are 16-5 on the season and 13-2 in the conference. They're the highest scoring team in the country (135.9) and are second only to Grinnell in made 3-pointers per game (19.1). Crucially, they're averaging a nation-leading 34.95 forced turnovers per game.
Greenville has also recently drawn a lot attention with their scorched-earth wins over MacMurray and Fontbonne. The Panthers set the record for points scored by a team in a SLIAC league game with a 167-145 win over the former. Two days later, they hung 200 points on the latter in a 200-146 win. It was the second-most points scored in an NCAA Division III game.
Junior guard Eric Williams posts a team-high 29.5 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field in just 18.8 minutes per night. Second in the conference in scoring, he's also second in the league in steals (60), behind senior teammate Johari Dix (75).
Dix averages 19.4 points per game, and three others — Marvin Bateman (15.8), Isiah Price (13.3) and Rakim Murphy (11.1) — average double figures as well.
With substitutions every minute, the Panthers' system ensures that everyone plays less than half the game.
Greenville's strategy guarantees high-scoring games and easy baskets for the opposing team. Opponents have shot 58.4 percent from the floor while averaging 122.7 points per game.
This will be the 77th meeting between the Red Devils and the Panthers since 1974. Greenville is Eureka's most common opponent since then.
The Red Devils are 51-25 against Greenville, but the Panthers hold a 4-3 edge since installing "The System," and are aiming for their third straight over EC.
Last year, the two teams battled to a split, with Eureka besting Greenville 131-109 in the first meeting and Greenville winning 111-97 in the rematch.
In November, the Panthers scored 50 points off 33 Eureka turnovers en route to a 139-126 win. Thomas racked up 34 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while Bennington posted 32 points and nine rebounds and Dehm collected a career-high 13 rebounds.
Williams, Price and Bateman all had over 20 for the Panthers.
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 2019-19 season is Dr. George Barber's 20th as head coach at Greenville. The 1986 Asbury graduate also owns coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and was an administrative assistant on Kentucky's 1996 national championship team.
Dr. Barber, who installed "The System" prior to the 2015-16 season, earned his first SLIAC Coach of the Year award in 2016 and has led GU to at least a share of the last three SLIAC regular-season championships. He is Greenville's longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching victories.
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.