THE OPENING TIP-OFF
A week after the Eureka men's basketball team's emphatic season-opening victory over Berea, the Red Devils are ready for their next pair of tests.
EC takes on Monmouth 6 p.m. Friday and Knox 6 p.m. Saturday. They're the maroon and gold's first two road contests of the season.
The Red Devils enter the second weekend of the 2019-20 season riding high after handily beating a Berea program that edged them by two points last season in a memorable season opener at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
The Red Devils shot 58.8 percent from the floor in the first half and led by as many as 32 in the game en route to a 94-78 final score.
Five Red Devils finished in double figures. Jordan Dehm notched a career-high 19 points and was one board shy of a double-double, while fellow senior veterans Dakota Bennington and Austin Juergens each added 18.
Transfer newcomers Chris Daniels and Ian Milsteadt added 13 and 11 points, respectively, in their Red Devil debuts, while sophomore Jalen Hosea contributed nine in his first career start. Also making his first career start was junior Jaedon Banks, who posted five blocks, four rebounds and two assists in a career-high 21 minutes.
It could be a crucial factor on the road this week.
The Red Devils return 11 letterwinners and three senior starters from the storied 2018-19 team. They also welcome eight newcomers.
The Monmouth men have yet to play this season, but the Red Devils should have a good idea of what to expect.
The Fighting Scots return all five starters from last year's squad, including an All-American in Will Carius. Like the Red Devils, Monmouth got hot at the right time and rode a 10-4 run into the Midwest Conference Tournament field.
Carius, a senior from Bettendorf, Iowa, is a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged a hefty double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. Junior guard D.J. Swift posted a career-high 15.5 points per game while distributing 71 assists, and senior Jake Rueter posted 43 assists while commanding at point guard.
With the addition of transfer Dee Hyler, the Fighting Scots add another guard who can play the No. 1 or No. 2
Carrius put up 35 and 10 on the Red Devils last season, while Justin Batterson — another returning senior — added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Swift contributed 17 and six assists.
The Fighting Scots were picked to finish second in the Midwest Conference preseason poll.
Knox faced one of Eureka's conference opponents to open the 2019-20 campaign, and came away with a season-opening win.
The Prairie Fire outdueled Principia in the second half en route to a 72-61 victory. The team shot 43.9 percent from the floor on the gam and 50 percent in the second half while outrebounding the Panthers 44-30.
Zach Lowe, a senior transfer from Green Mountain College in Vermont, led the way with a team-high 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Jordan Rayner added 11 points, while Wes Jolly added nine and seven.
Knox has a new program leader this season after Ben Davis was hired in April. He was previously at Green Mountain, where he led the Eagles to a Northeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship.
Knox was selected 10th in the Midwest Conference preseason poll.
LAST TIME AROUND
Last season, the Red Devils opened the season at home against Monmouth and fell short 101-91.
EC held a one-point advantage at the half, but the Fighting Scots went 16-for-32 from the field in the second half and sealed the win. That win gave Monmouth a 12-4 lead over the Red Devils in the all-time series. Eureka edged the Fighting Scots 97-96 in 2017 and won by three in 2016, 89-86. Every EC win over Monmouth has come by a margin of three or less.
Two games later, EC earned its first victory of the season against Knox, winning 116-69. The Red Devils shot 58 percent from the field, hit 17 3-pointers and ran the Prairie Fire off the floor. Dakota Bennington led the way with a 24-point effort.
Eureka has won four straight against the purple and gold, and holds a 9-7 advantage in the series.