Red Devils on the Brink of First SLIAC Title

Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.
Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.

PDF Version of Eureka Game Notes

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team will try to win at least a share of the institution's first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team championship Wednesday night when the Red Devils host league foe MacMurray at 6 p.m. at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.

WHAT'S AT STAKE WEDNESDAY?

A victory on Wednesday would guarantee the Red Devils at least a share of the SLIAC regular-season crown. EC's "magic number" to win the outright league title and host the SLIAC Tournament -- the combined amount of Eureka victories and Greenville defeats -- is two.

Eureka hasn't won a conference championship in a women's sport at the NCAA Division III level since the volleyball team won back-to-back Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference titles in 1996 and 1997. Prior to beginning an exclusive affiliation with Division III in the fall of 1996, the EC women's basketball program won five Prairie College Conference championships -- 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1991 -- all at the NAIA level.

ABOUT EUREKA

Eureka is 15-6 overall and 11-1 against SLIAC opponents. EC has won nine of its last 10 games and five straight home contests since a 100-85 win over Rust (Miss.) on New Year's Day.

Junior guard Hayley Reneau, a native of Washington, Ill. and a transfer from NJCAA Illinois Central, leads the EC offense with 13.1 points per game. She shoots 44 percent from the floor and her 38 percent effort from 3-point range is currently tied for the fourth-highest mark in single-season Eureka history among players to make at least 25 3-pointers in a season.

Senior forward Michaela Balducci adds 11.3 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Kerrigan Dura pours in 9.4 points per contest and has totaled 100 assists, third-most among SLIAC players.

The Red Devils are one of the SLIAC's most effective teams from 3-point range, making a league-high eight triples per game and ranking fourth with a .320 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

Defensively, Eureka's defense has limited its opponents to a .354 field goal percentage and a .237 3-point field goal percentage. Both marks are the lowest in the conference.

Eureka was picked to finish sixth in the SLIAC, according to a coaches' poll released before the start of the season.

RED DEVILS ROUT WESTMINSTER TO SECURE SLIAC SPOT

Hayley Reneau scored 22 points and seniors Michaela Balducci and Luci Weis tacked on 15 apiece, helping the Red Devils clinch a berth in the 2017 SLIAC Tournament with a 75-47 league win at Westminster, Monday afternoon in Fulton, Mo.

Eureka defeated Westminster in Fulton for just the second time in 15 tries since Jan. 10, 2000. The 28-point margin of victory was Eureka's largest in 28 all-time meetings with Westminster.

Eureka broke the game open in the third quarter, pushing its lead to 20 when Reneau scored for a 50-30 lead at the 4:08 mark. WC had one final push, scoring 10 of the next 11 points to trim its deficit to 51-40, but Reneau and Balducci scored in the final 28 seconds of the quarter to give EC a 55-40 lead.

The Red Devils extended their lead throughout the fourth quarter and the final 28-point margin was Eureka's largest lead of the afternoon.

Reneau scored 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting. She made four 3-pointers. Eureka shot 53 percent for the game and matched a season-low by committing only 11 turnovers. The Red Devils also crushed the Blue Jays inside, outscoring WC in the paint, 35-14.

ABOUT MacMURRAY

MacMurray will shoot for its first SLIAC victory on Wednesday, owning a 1-18 overall record and a 0-12 league mark. The Highlanders have lost 10 straight games since Dec. 19.

The Highlanders' lone victory this season was a 71-48 neutral-site win over Robert Morris-Springfield on Dec. 10. MC hasn't won a contest on an opponent's home floor since beating Fontbonne in last season's finale, 73-66 on Feb. 20, 2016 in St. Louis.

Freshman guard Destyne Powell is the only Highlander to average double figures in scoring. Powell scores 10.8 points per game in 18 starts. Sophomore Kayla Horlacher is next with a 9.4 scoring average. Freshman forward Danielle Popis pulls down a team-best 4.8 rebounds per game.

As a team, MacMurray averages 51.0 points per game, eighth-most in the SLIAC. The Highlanders rank last in the conference with a minus-9.1 rebounding average.

A preseason poll conducted by league coaches picked MacMurray to finish eight in the SLIAC this season.

MacMurray joins Blackburn, Fontbonne and Webster as active charter members of the SLIAC. MC won back-to-back regular-season league titles in 1995 and 1996 and the 1996 SLIAC Tournament crown, but hasn't qualified for the league's annual postseason tournament since 2006.

ABOUT THE HEAD COACHES

Steve Thompson is in his third season as head coach of the Red Devils.

Since taking the reins of the program in 2014, Thompson has built on the Red Devils' sustained success and guided EC to the SLIAC Tournament in each of his first two seasons, including a title game appearance in 2015.

In addition to his role with the Eureka women's basketball program, Thompson has served EC as Director of Athletics since Jan. 2, 2014. Thompson has more than a decade of administrative experience in collegiate athletics, including five years at NCAA Division III Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and two years at NCAA Division I Kent State.

Derek James is the head coach at MacMurray. His four-year record on the MC bench is 14-80.

The Port Byron, Ill. is a 2004 graduate of MacMurray and a member of the school's athletics hall of fame. He was a three-time All-SLIAC choice in men's basketball for the Highlanders and owns the all-time program record with 228 3-pointers. He was also a standout golfer at MC, earning SLIAC Player of the Year honors as in 2003.

SERIES VERSUS MacMURRAY

Eureka has dominated the series with the Highlanders, owning a 41-5 record in the series since 1983. The Red Devils have won 13 in a row in the series.

Additionally, the Red Devils are 20-2 against the Highlanders at the Reagan Athletic Complex.

MacMurray has been one of Eureka's most common opponents over the last four decades, previously competing as rivals in the NAIA Prairie College Conference in the 1980s. The 46 matchups between the two schools since 1983 are the third-most for the Red Devils in that time frame, trailing only Blackburn (57 meetings) and Greenville (52 meetings).

LAST TIME VERSUS MacMURRAY

Eureka continued its best start to a conference schedule in the program's NCAA Division III history, cruising to an 83-42 SLIAC victory over MacMurray in Jacksonville, Ill. on Jan. 7.

Eureka made sure the outcome was never in doubt, racing to a 15-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. Four of Eureka's five starters made a field goal during the early blitz, as the Red Devils kept the hosts off the scoreboard until the 4:53 mark of the period. EC led 21-7 at the end of the frame.

The Red Devils opened the second quarter with another lengthy run, scoring the first 17 points of the period to open up a 38-7 lead. The advantage was 46-11 at intermission.

EC led 63-24 after three quarters. The second-half lead ballooned to as many as 46 points when Luci Weis gave the Red Devils a 76-30 cushion with 5:36 left in the game.

All 11 Red Devils saw the floor in the victory, nine of which scored. Lexi Dooley made her first start of the season and put up a game-high 15 points. Kerrigan Dura finished the contest with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Ashley Harfst added14 points and Hayley Reneau chipped in with 11.

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

Links to a live video stream and live statistics be available at EurekaRedDevils.com and sliac.org

The Eureka College media relations staff will provide updates throughout the game via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.