THE OPENING TIP-OFF
The Eureka men's basketball team is in the mix, and primed to work its way back up the ladder in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Red Devils can keep their pace with wins over MacMurray and Iowa Wesleyan this week.
On Thursday, EC will face the Highlanders on the road at 7:30 p.m. Then, on Saturday, the Tigers come to town for a 3 p.m. meeting.
The Red Devils come into the first week of February with a 7-5 record in league play and a 12-7 mark overall.
They're coming off a strong week that featured two wins with an average 94.5 points and an 18-point margin of victory.
In Saturday's 93-74 triumph at Westminster, the EC men shot a season-best 62.1 percent from the field on the day.
They controlled the entire first half, and after a slow start to the second half, finished strong to avenge a 96-84 home loss against the Blue Jays earlier this season.
Dakota Bennington recorded 32 points while shooting 11-of-19 from the field and making 3 of 7 3-pointers. Between that performance and EC's 96-79 win over Principia, Bennington turned in a Player of the Week-like week, averaging 27.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, 50 percent from distance and 81.8 percent at the line.
The SLIAC's leading scorer has now had three 30-point games in his last four tries. He's also up to ninth in program history in career points (1,396), eighth in field goal attempts (1,005), seventh in field goals (517), seventh in free-throw attempts (359), tied for seventh in blocked shots (47) and sixth in free throws (285).
Jordan Dehm had 14 points and seven rebounds. He's now fifth in the league in both points (18.6), rebounds (8.2) and free-throw percentage (83).
The Red Devils are currently second in the league in both scoring (92.4 points per game) and field-goal percentage (48.2). They're first in rebounds (44.6), free-throw percentage (76.5), and are second in blocks (4.7).
MacMurray currently holds a 4-8 record in the SLIAC and is 6-13 overall.
The Highlanders have had one of the most up-and-down seasons of any team in the league. That was evident on Saturday when they got throttled by Webster 126-78 on their home floor. Earlier this season, MacMurray came three points shy of knocking off the league's top team.
The Highlanders have also previously bested Greenville 164-156, topped Westminster 115-104, and beaten Spalding twice – once by 21 and once by three. On the opposite side, they've gotten trounced by Iowa Wesleyan (100-61) and lost to Principia (92-84).
So, it's hard to guess what, exactly, the Red Devils are going to get from the Highlanders on Thursday.
It's safe to assume that they'll be looking to feed Logan Dorethy, though. Averaging 20.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, the 6-foot-7 sophomore is the best big man in the league.
Trevor Voss and Camron Jamison contribute 13.9 and 13.2 points per game, and Elijah Powell follows with 9.1.
Last month, when the Red Devils pulled away from the Highlanders and earned an 82-61 win at home, they managed to hold Dorethy to 13 points while Powell notched a team-high 15. The Highlanders shot just 30.4 percent from the floor on the day.
MacMurray averages 82.8 points per game (sixth in the league) while shooting 47.9 percent from the field (third) and allowing 91.6 points per game from their opponents.
ABOUT IOWA WESLEYAN
Heading into Wednesday's home game against Blackburn, the Tigers are 8-11 on the season and 5-7 in SLIAC play.
They're coming off back-to-back wins after pounding Spalding 104-75 on Saturday and beating Westminster last Wednesday, 85-79.
Prior to that, the Tigers drubbed MacMurray 100-61 and clipped Fontbonne 85-63 early in the month, and got the best of Principia, 92-85, in December.
Like MacMurray, the Tigers are the kind of team that can fall behind and lose by 20, or get hot and win by 20.
On Saturday, the team set a program record for 3-pointers in a single game, knocking down 23 triples on the game. Jett Tjaden went 7-of-11 from distance and finished with a team-high 23 points. Jake Neubauer drained five from beyond the arc and notched 21.
Neubauer (13.8), Jarryd Fernandes (13.5) and Alex Dentlinger (13) are the team's leading scorers. With 9.5 rebounds per game, Fernandes is just shy of averaging a double-double. Earlier this season, Dentlinger put away a school-record 11 3s in a loss against Blackburn.
In last month's game against the Red Devils, Austin Banks led the Tigers with 22 points, while Alberto Torres-Municio added 19 off the bench.
The Red Devils lead the all-time series 27-14.