EUREKA — With four games to play, the Eureka men's basketball team can't afford a misstep.
The Red Devils are hosting Fontbonne at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Then, they're headed on the road this weekend to complete the season series with Spalding at 12 p.m. Saturday.
The Red Devils experienced two extremes of the athletic spectrum last week.
First, they dropped a rough one when the team went cold at the wrong time on the road at MacMurray on Thursday. Two days later, they played their best down the stretch and closed door in a low-scoring contest against Iowa Wesleyan to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Now, they're only a game out of playoff contention in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Red Devils are 8-6 in SLIAC play and 13-8 on the season, looking up at Fontbonne (9-5) and Blackburn (9-5), Greenville (10-4) and Webster (12-2).
On Saturday, the Red Devils' defense held the Tigers to 20.6 percent shooting in the second half,
On the offensive end, they spread the ball around. Dakota Bennington notched a team-high 13 points and seven boards, Austin Juergens followed with 12 and Austyn Ellison scored a career-high 11 while distributing a career-high six assists off the bench.
The Red Devils are currently averaging 90.5 points per game (second in the league) while shooting 47.6 percent (third in the league). They're leading the SLIAC in rebounds (44.9) and free-throw percentage (75.5), and are also second in blocks (4.9).
Bennington still leads the league in scoring at 24.5 points per game. After the weekend, Jaedon Banks jumped into first place in the league in blocks. Juergens is third in free-throw percentage (84.3) and Jordan Dehm is fifth in rebounds (8.4).
Dehm (17.7), Juergens (15.7) and Ian Milsteadt (10.5) all average double figures.
After a slow start to the season, Fontbonne has become a team to watch in the SLIAC.
The Griffins opened the 2019-20 campaign by going 2-6 in their first eight games, but they knocked off Greenville in December, went 6-2 in January and is coming off a bounce-back win over Spalding after dropping back-to-back contests to Greenville (155-149 in overtime) and Webster (77-69).
They're now tied for third place with Blackburn with a 9-5 record in the SLIAC and an 11-10 mark overall.
On Saturday, Fontbonnne started fast and steadily took care of Spalding, 101-73. The Griffins shot 62.1 percent from the floor and tied its season-high with a 50 percent shooting performance from 3-point range.
Noah Coddlington scored a team-high 15 for the Griffins, while Jared Woodcock and Cody McKinney contributed 13 and 10 apiece.
When Fontbonne tagged the Red Devils in overtime last month, 114-110, Anthony Jones was the hero, dropping a career-high 42 points and hitting a game-tying half-courter at the buzzer to force overtime.
He leads the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting. Woodcock (11.2) and Jalen Wadlington (10.6) both average double figures as well.
The Griffins are ranked fourth in the conference in scoring at 86.5 points per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and giving up 88 points per game.
The Red Devils hold a 15-14 edge over Fontbonne in the all-time series.
For EC men's basketball, Spalding represents one that got away.
Heading into Wednesday's slate of games, the Golden Eagles hold a 3-19 record and a 3-12 mark in the conference overall.
Their only wins have come against Iowa Wesleyan (76-71) and Principia (80-78) – and at Eureka.
On Jan. 16, the Golden Eagles came to Dave Darnall Court and outscored the Red Devils 48-36 in the second half after trailing by as many as 10 in the first half.
Clinging to a two-point lead with less than two minutes to play, the visitors scored the next six points, forcing EC to make them earn it at the line. The Golden Eagles made 19 of 21 free-throw attempts that night, sealing a 78-69 victory.
The Red Devils can put that all behind them with a more consistent performance on the road on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles are last in the league in scoring with 72.7 points per game and are eighth in field-goal percentage at 45.8. They've given up 86 points per game this season.
Marcus Montgomery is the team's leading scorer, ranking fifth in the league at 19.9 points per game while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from distance.
He's followed by Jaiquan Edwards at 15.6 and Tory Amanor at 11.1. Edwards pulls down a team-high seven boards per game, and is fourth in the league with 26 blocks.
The Red Devils are 9-13 against the Golden Eagles in the all-time series, but they have taken six of the last eight matchups.