THE OPENING TIP-OFF
It's St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play time for the Eureka men's basketball team.
After a 4-1 start to the season, the Red Devils will tip-off league play at Blackburn at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Then, on Saturday at 3 p.m., they'll continue it at Principia.
Before Thanksgiving — and the opportunity to get a taste of Division I basketball at New Orleans on Black Friday —came, the Red Devils improved to 4-1 on the season with a 93-80 victory over Dominican last Tuesday.
EC couldn't pull away from the visiting Stars, but the maroon and gold still closed them out and snagged the team's third double-digit victory of the season.
Senior Dakota Bennington racked up a game-high 26 points on 6-for-12 shooting while going 14-for-14 at the free-throw line. The league's leading scorer also gathered seven boards, recorded four steals, distributed three assists and had two blocks. Classmate Austin Juergens followed with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting while hitting three of the Red Devils' five 3-pointers on the night.
Junior reserve J'Len Crawford came off the bench and notched career highs in both points (12) and rebounds (7). Junior transfer Ian Milsteadt added 12 points as well, while junior Jaedon Banks pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
Through five games, Eureka has the highest field-goal percentage in the SLIAC at 47.8 percent, the most rebounds per game (44.8) and the most blocks (5). The Red Devils are also leading the league in free-throw percentage (71.7 percent).
Last season, EC split with both Blackburn and Principia. Eureka leads the all-time series against the Beavers 41-20 and the all-time series against Principia 42-9.
Blackburn is going into Wednesday's league-play opener coming off its first win of the season — an 82-75 overtime victory at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
In it, Karson Hayes dropped a game-high 29 points on 11-20 shooting from the field while gathering seven rebounds. Byrson Kirby and Nigel Ferrell added 14 and 12 points, respectively, while Javon Stovall posted 11 points off the bench. Randy Love tied with Hayes for a team-high seven boards.
Hayes knocked down a game-tying jumper with 11 seconds left to force overtime and the Beavers outpaced the home team 12-5 in the extra frame to seal the win.
Prior to that, the Beavers fell at Illinois Wesleyan in their season opener, 89-65, and dropped a pair at the Loras Classic. Loras won, 88-75, and Wisconsin-La Cross blew them out in an 84-44 rout.
Blackburn was voted to finish fifth in the SLIAC preseason poll.
Principia is 1-4 heading into its SLIAC opener at Iowa Wesleyan on Tuesday evening.
The Panthers got the best of Lincoln Christian in an 87-81 victory on Nov. 19 after an 0-4 start to the season.
In their first two games of the season, they lost to EC common opponents, Berea (72-69) and Knox (72-61). After that, they dropped two at the Wheaton Tournament, falling to Wheaton 90-71 and Franklin 72-69.
Principia's top scorer, TreVaughn Goodman was selected SLIAC Player of the Week for the second week in a row last week after putting up 34 points on 14-of-20 shooting in the Lincoln Christian game. He went 5-for-7 from the free-throw line and added 10 rebounds and five assists. At 24.6 points per game, he's just behind Bennington's 25 for leading scorer in the conference, and he's second in rebounds with 8.8 per game.
Brennan Paulson leads the league in both fieldt-goal percentage (70.6) and 3-point percentage (63.6). Clark Davidson (7.6 boards per game) per game is fourth in the SLIAC in rebounds.
BENNINGTON NAMED SLIAC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
For the first time this season, Eureka's Dakota Bennington was selected as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week.
Bennington notched a game-high 26 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor and going 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as Eureka improved to 4-1 with a 93-80 win over Dominican last Tuesday. The 6-foot-3 senior also gathered seven boards, recorded four steals, distributed three assists and had two blocks.
This was his fourth Player of the Week award after receiving the honor three times last year.
Bennington is currently averaging 25 points per game while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor and contributing 6.2 rebounds and two assists per game.
Before the win over Dominican, he recorded his 1,000th career point as a Red Devil in a 122-115 win over Grinnell on Nov. 20.