Preview: Iowa Wesleyan Only One Hurdle for EC’s Tourney Hopes

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl

EUREKA — On the last day of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season, there are six teams left in tournament contention — and Eureka College is one of them.

The Red Devils will host Iowa Wesleyan inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena Saturday at 3 p.m., and then, they'll see where the chips fall across the league.

ABOUT EUREKA

The Eureka men (10-13, 9-8 in the SLIAC) will enter the day locked in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot with Blackburn and Westminster. All three teams are 9-8 in the conference, sitting behind third-place Spalding (10-7).

A win for EC guarantees a tie for fourth place, but it doesn't guarantee a playoff spot

If the Red Devils and Blackburn both win on Saturday, EC has the tiebreaker due to its wins over the top three teams, but its fate ultimately depends on what happens in the Westminster-MacMurray game.

If the Red Devils win and Westminster loses, EC is in. But if the Red Devils and Westminster both win, EC loses the tiebreaker due to getting swept by Westminster in conference play, and is the odd man out.

The best case scenario for the Red Devils is if they win, Westminster loses and Spalding loses. That would mean a third-place finish in the SLIAC. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: Eureka has to win and Westminster has to lose for the Red Devils to receive a postseason berth.  

The Red Devils have had quite a week, knocking off Greenville, 161-153, on Monday and MacMurray, 98-80, on Wednesday.

In the former, junior Dakota Bennington scored a school-record 51 points, senior Alex Wiegand scored a career-high 36 points on a perfect 16-of-16 shooting and senior Hank Thomas posted 28 points and an EC conference record 14 assists.

In the latter, junior Austin Juergens dropped a career-high 31 points, while Bennington and Thomas combined 42 and junior Jordan Dehm gathered a team-high 10 boards.

Bennington is the SLIAC's second-leading scorer at 23.9 points per game. Thomas, Juergens and Dehm all average double figures as well. Thomas is second in the SLIAC in assists (127), and Dehm averages the fifth-most rebounds in the league (8.3).

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 IOWA WESLEYAN

Iowa Wesleyan enters with a 5-12 record in the SLIAC and a 7-17 mark overall.

The Tigers have swept Principia and split with MacMurray, Fonbonne and Westminster. They're coming off snapping a three-game skid with an 87-79 win over Fontbonne at home on Wednesday.

Four Tigers scored double figures in that game. Jake Neubauer and Albert Torres led the way with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Austin Rebel and Jarryd Fernandes both averages 12.4 apiece for the Tigers, while Neubauer adds 11.6 and Torres adds 9.4.

The Tigers are the second-lowest scoring team in the SLIAC at 70.2 points per game on 41.5 field-goal percentage. However, they rank fourth in fewest points allowed per night (81.3).

RECENT HISTORY

Eureka maintains a 25-14 all-time record against Iowa Wesleyan dating back to 1974.

The Red Devils have dominated this series at home, winning 17 of 20 matchups at the Reagan Athletic Complex.

The last time around, EC had to grind out an 82-73 victory in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, after trailing during most of the first half. Bennington scored 18 of his team-high 32 points in the second half, while Dehm and Juergens added 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Two years ago, Iowa Wesleyan pulled off a season sweep. Last season, Eureka returned the favor, winning 110-101 and 93-77. Bennington and Thomas were big factors in both victories, combining for 41 points last January and 44 last Valentine's Day.

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.

Alex Huisman is in his third season guiding Iowa Wesleyan. Previously an assistant at Iowa Wesleyan and Upper Iowa, Huisman played at Upper Iowa for four years and graduated in 2011.  

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

Iowa Wesleyan will provide a live online video broadcast of Wednesday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.