THE OPENING TIP-OFF
While the student body heads home for Thanksgiving week, the Eureka men's basketball team continues to grind.
The Red Devils are hosting Dominican in a non-conference matchup at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Then, a couple days later, they're headed to New Orleans for a Black Friday exhibition at 12 p.m.
At 3-1, EC men's basketball is coming off the kind of win that was a staple of the 2018-19 team's thrilling late-season run to an NCAA Tournament berth.
With equal parts tenacity and poise, the Red Devils withstood the pressure of Grinnell's unconventional system and took down the Pioneers 122-115 on Dave Darnall Court last Wednesday. To do it, the team needed big contributions from an assortment of players.
Austin Juergens carried the load down the stretch and finished with tied for a career-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting while making all seven of free throws. Despite foul trouble, Dakota Bennington notched 30 points, including the 1,000th of his Red Devil career along the way.
With those two veterans leading the way, Jalen Hosea and Jaedon Banks played significantly bigger roles than they ever have against a System team. The former recorded career highs in points (16), rebounds (8) and assists (7), while the latter kept EC in the rebounding battle (a game-high and career high 14 on the night), made important free throws and timely blocks. Both registered career highs in minutes, clocking 31 and 34, respectively.
And a handful of newcomers held their own in their first System game in maroon and gold, with Ian Milsteadt most notably putting up 20 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in 29 minutes.
Through four games, Eureka has the highest field-goal percentage in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at 47.4 percent, the most rebounds per game (44.5) and the most blocks (5.8).
The Stars are coming to town with a 2-1 record after conceding their first loss of the season against Concordia Wisconsin on Saturday.
Dominican stayed with Concordia Wisconsin for the first half, only trailing by two points at halftime (38-36). However, midway through the second half, the Falcons turned up the intensity and the home team couldn't keep up, falling 87-60.
Braqaun Echols was only Dominican player to reach double figures, contributing 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Tyler Guest added 10 rebounds and nine points.
The Stars' trio of leading scorers — Dylan Anderson (10.7), Luke McDermott (10.3) and Guest (10.3) — are averaging 10 points per game. Guest is averaging a double-double with 10.7 boards per game to go with his 10.3 points.
Dominican is coming off a 3-22 season was voted to finish 12 of 12 in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
Eureka is 14-11 against the Stars all-time and has taken the last three meetings, sweeping a home-and-home series in 2017 and winning by three points in 2009.
For the first time, Eureka will take on NCAA Division I opponent New Orleans on Friday at 12 p.m.
The contest, which will be a regular-season game for the Privateers and an exhibition for the Red Devils, will take place inside Lakefront Arena. The arena seats almost 9,000 people.
New Orleans is 1-4 through five games.
After opening the season with a 114-58 win over Division II Spring Hill, the Privateers have dropped three straight, falling at Butler 79-53, at SMU 77-64, at No. 14 Mississippi State 82-59 and at Hawaii 79-71.