Preview: Red Devils to Test Resilience at MacMurray

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — The Eureka women have one more road challenge left on their schedule before they come home for senior day on Saturday.

The Red Devils can complete a season sweep over MacMurray in Highlander territory Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

ABOUT EUREKA

Eureka saw its season-best four-game winning streak end on Monday night with an 11-point loss to St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference leader Greenville.

The Red Devils fell behind early and couldn't manage to close the gap, despite coming within striking distance on multiple occasions. As a result, EC is now 12-11 on the season and 6-8 in the conference. With a pair of wins, the team could finish with a winning record overall and .500 in the conference.

It topped both remaining opponents earlier in the season, but it will need a better shooting performance than they had on Monday to get the job done again. The Red Devils shot 25.4 percent from the field — nearly 13 percent off their average.  

Still, senior and leading scorer Samantha Sarnes tallied a team-high 16 points and hit three of the team's seven 3-pointers. She's 12.4 points per night on the season.  

Freshman Josie Morgan added 13 points and also canned a trio of 3s for EC, while classmate Olivia Falls recorded 12 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.

Falls, who is fifth in the SLIAC in field-goal percentage (53.7), has been racking up the boards lately. Over the last three games, she's pulled down 13 rebounds per game. She and junior Ashley Harfst average a team-high 7.2 per game.

Harfst (11.6), Morgan (11.1), and Falls (10.9) all average double figures. Junior guard Kennedy Dura, who averages 9.8 points per game, is the SLIAC's assists leader, with an even 100 dishes on the season.

The Red Devils are third in the SLIAC in free-throw percentage (70.1), and fourth in points (71), rebounds (41.4) and assists (16) per game.

Eureka returns two starters and three letterwinners from last season's 18-win team, which went to the SLIAC Tournament semifinals for the seventh consecutive season. The Red Devils were picked fifth in a preseason SLIAC poll conducted by league head coaches.

ABOUT MACMURRAY

MacMurray enters this one vying for its third conference victory of the season The Highlanders are 3-20 and 2-12 in SLIAC play. They've topped Blackburn and Iowa Wesleyan in league play.

They continue to be led by freshman forward Chassidy Hays, who averages a team-high 16.5 points per game while shooting a SLIAC-best 59.7 percent from the field.

She also leads the conference with 13.2 boards per night. In fact, she has gathered the most rebounds in the SLIAC (362) and has made the fourth-most field goals (132 of 221 attempts).

Sophomore Shelby Fink adds 12.7 points per game for the young Highlanders, who have managed 59.3 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting. Fink has also registered the fourth-most assists in the conference (86).

RECENT HISTORY

Eureka maintains a firm upper hand over their longtime foe.

The Red Devils have bested the Highlanders 45 times in 50 meetings dating back to the 1983-84 season, and have won the last 17 contests.

On Jan. 13, Harfst posted a double-double for EC, dropping a team-high 24 points and 10 reboounds as the Red Devils notched a 75-61 win. Morgan and Ja'Keesha Hawkins added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Both games were blowouts last season. The first time around, Eureka put up 103 points en route to a 30-point victory. Dura dropped 19 points and dished 10 assists, while Harfst registered 12 points and 11 boards.

The following month, Sarnes notched a then-career-high 26 points off the bench as the Red Devils surged to a 96-71 win. Dura added 15 points.

MEET THE HEAD COACHES

Amos Arbogast is in his second season directing the Red Devils. The 2006 Iowa graduate directed Eureka to 18 wins last season, the most victories by a first-year EC head coach since Hall of Famer Sandy Schuster piloted EC to a 19-7 mark in 1991-92.

Arbogast, who served the Eureka men's basketball program as an assistant for six seasons prior to his appointment, welcomed nine newcomers to the program for the 2018-19 campaign.

First-year MacMurray coach Chad Harmon took over the Highlanders this season after spending the last two as the Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Evansville, his alma mater. He was previously an assistant at Monmouth College and the University of Illinois-Springfield.

After graduating from Evansville in 2009, Harmon helped Lincoln College win back-to-back NJCAA Division National Championships in 2010 and 2011.  

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

MacMurray will provide a live online video broadcast of Saturday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com.