THE OPENING TIP-OFF
St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season is heating up for the Eureka men's basketball team.
The Red Devils host a pair of league foes this weekend, starting with Spalding on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and following with a highly-anticipated showdown with Webster on Saturday at 3 p.m.
It will all go down at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center.
The Eureka men's basketball team fell down a rung of the SLIAC ladder on Saturday and effectively moved into a contentious five-way tie for second place in the conference.
The Red Devils are now 4-2 in the SLIAC, and momentarily sat there with two teams that got the best of them the first time around (Fontbonne and Westminster), one team they topped on the road (Blackburn) and a team they haven't played yet (Greenville).
The only team above this group is the one that's coming to Eureka this weekend: Webster.
With a pair of home wins this week, the Red Devils could level the playing field before heading to Greemville to complete the first half of the conference season next Wednesday.
The Red Devils lead the SLIAC in rebounds per game (45.1) and free-throw percentage (74.5). They're also second in points per game (91.1), field goals made (451 of 972) and blocks (4.6), and are third in fewest points allowed (81.3).
Last week, EC averaged nearly 110 points per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. However, Fontbonne rallied late, forced overtime on a half-court shot and rode the momentum to a 114-110 win over the Red Devils.
For the second straight game, Jordan Dehm led the Red Devils in scoring with a career-high 34 points on 12-for-20 shooting, and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Bennington remains the SLIAC's leading scorer, averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 124-for-230 from the field and 53-for-102 from the free-throw line. He's second in the league in steals (36), fifth in rebounds (7.1 per game) and fifth in blocks (15).
Jaedon Banks is second in the SLIAC in blocks with 23. Juergens is fourth in the league in free-throw percentage at 84.1 percent.
At 2-4 in the SLIAC and 2-11 on the season, the Golden Eagles are closer to the bottom of the SLIAC than the top.
Spalding gained their second season by edging Principia 80-78 last Saturday. Prior to that, the Golden Eagles had lost four straight. Their other conference win came in a five-point win over Iowa Wesleyan on Dec. 14
The Golden Eagles' conference losses came at the hands of Webster (66-54), MacMurray (73-52), Greenville (145-133) and Fontbonne (75-74).
Marcus Montgomery led the way on Saturday with a 20-point showing on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and 6-of-10 shooting from distance. Jaiquan Edwards followed with 18 points, and Mitchell Prince and Clayte Weathers contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Montgomery is the team's leading scorer at 17.6 points per game while shooting 41.5 percent. Edwards is averaging 14 points per game and a team-high 6.8 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles are last in the league in scoring with 70 points per game, but second in fewest points allowed at 81.3.
Webster is currently the top team in the SLIAC standings.
The Gorloks are the team that the Red Devils knocked off late last season, then edged in the SLIAC Tournament title game to clinch their first tourney title.
The maroon and gold will have to go through them to get back where they want to be.
After beating Blackburn on Wednesday, the Gorloks have a 7-7 record on the season and a 6-1 mark in conference play.
They've won five straight, boasting wins over Blackburn (77-58), Westminster (78-65), Principia (94-78), Fontbonne (78-65), MacMurray (93-90 in overtime), and also beating Spalding, 66-54, in December.
Greenville handed them their only conference loss in a relatively low-scoring 98-97 defeat.
In the Westmin win, Josh Johnson racked up 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Enrique Tankins went 7-for-13 from the floor, gathered eight rebounds and finished with 17 points, and Jordan Clay and Wynne Brown Jr. each added 13 points. The Gorloks shot 51.5 percent overall.
Johnson is averaging just under 20 points per game, while Tanks and Etienne Rodson are each producing just under 15. Brown, meanwhile is just below 10.
The Gorloks are ninth in the league in points per game at 73.5, but they're holding opponents to a league-low 73.5 points per game.