Preview: SLIAC Unbeatens Meet Saturday in Carlinville

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

CARLINVILLE, Ill. -- Two of the final three unbeaten teams in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings will square off Saturday when the Eureka College men's basketball team travels to Carlinville, Ill. for a 3 p.m. league tip-off against longtime rival Blackburn at Dawes Gymnasium.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

The Red Devils are 6-1 overall for the second straight season and have opened the SLIAC schedule 2-0 for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign after an 82-66 victory at MacMurray last Saturday in Jacksonville, Ill. 
The 6-1 record through seven games marks just the ninth time in 40 seasons as a member of NCAA Division III Eureka has won at least six of its first seven games. The Red Devils achieved this feat seven times under Hall of Fame head coach Dave Darnall. The Red Devils have now started 6-1 two seasons in a row under current head coach Chip Wilde -- the third time EC has won six or more of its first seven in consecutive seasons.
Eureka ranks eighth nationally with 101.3 points per game and has hit the 90-point mark in five of its six wins this season. The Red Devils secure a critical portion of their offense at the free throw line. Eureka has made 152 free throws through its first seven games, third-most in Division III. The Red Devils' 190 total free throw attempts are eighth-most in the country and their team percentage of .800 at the foul line ranks 11th out of 416 ranked Division III teams.
The Red Devils are in their 40th season as a member of NCAA Division III and their 11th season as a member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Eureka returns three starters, all juniors, from last season's 13-win team that broke the program's single-season record for team scoring with 90.5 points per game. In all, EC returns 18 letterwinners from last season.
Shea Feehan earned his third career 40-point game, Hank Thomas tacked on 25 points and the Red Devils moved to 2-0 in SLIAC play in an 82-66 league win at MacMurray last Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Ill.
A Thomas triple with 4:02 remaining before halftime broke a 26-26 deadlock and triggered a 14-4 run by the Red Devils to end the period. Ryan McElmurry gave the visitors their largest lead of the half when he buried a 3 from the left wing at the buzzer for a 40-30 cushion.
Eureka nearly put the contest out of reach by scoring eight of the first 10 points of the second half for a 48-32 lead. MacMurray quickly responded and pulled within two, 56-54, on a Brent Long 3-pointer with 11:20 left, but Eureka answered with Feehan triple less than a minute later. The Red Devils pushed their lead back to double digits on two Feehan foul shots for a 70-59 advantage with 5:19 to go. The visitors led by as least three possessions the rest of the way.
Feehan made seven 3-pointers and went 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Thomas went 6-for-12 from the field and also punished MC at the line, going 10-for-11 for the afternoon. Jordan Dehm had a team-high nine rebounds.
Shea Feehan maintained his stranglehold on the SLIAC Player of the Week award and earned his third consecutive honor to begin the season, according to an announcement from the league office on Monday. Feehan averaged 37.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in leading the Red Devils to league wins over Greenville and MacMurray.
Feehan shot 59 percent (24-for-41) from the floor, 47 percent (8-for-17) from 3-point range and a perfect 18-for-18 from the free throw line in the Red Devils' victories last week. He committed only one turnover in 27 minutes against Greenville's full-court "system" defensive pressure and his 40-point outburst in Saturday's win at MacMurray was his third career 40-point game. He has now won the SLIAC Player of the Week award six times overall.
Blackburn owns a 4-1 record and joins Eureka and Spalding as one of three SLIAC teams to begin the conference schedule 2-0. BC downed MacMurray 88-82 in the league opener in Carlinville. Blackburn later topped Fontbonne last Saturday in St. Louis, 81-79, a game in which the Beavers erased a five-point deficit in the final 61 seconds and won at the buzzer on Karson Hayes' basket as time expired.
In addition to their two league wins, the Beavers have toppled a pair of College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opponents -- North Park and Elmhurst -- and earned an exhibition victory at NCAA Division II Missouri S&T on Nov. 11.
Junior guard Duncan King leads the Beavers with 15.2 points per game. He shoots 52 percent from the floor. Hayes follows with an average of 11.0 points and connects from 3-point range at a 54 percent clip.
Eureka and Blackburn have met 56 times since the 1974-75 season. The Red Devils lead the series in that time frame, 39-17, and own an 18-4 record against the Beavers since the two squads became SLIAC rivals in 2006. 
Eureka has lost three of its last four trips to Carlinville, including a 92-90 defeat to begin last season's league schedule. Eureka avenged the early-season defeat with a 101-83 win over the Beavers at the Reagan Athletic Complex on Jan. 21, 2017.
The owner of more than two decades of coaching experience at the collegiate level, Chip Wilde is in his 11th season as head coach at Eureka. The current campaign marks Wilde's 20th season as a collegiate basketball head coach.
Wilde has proved to be one of the most successful head coaches in the storied history of Eureka men's basketball, establishing the Red Devils as a steady presence in the SLIAC both on the court and in the classroom. Wilde has 123 wins, third-most in the 99-year history of the program.
The 2017-18 season is Steve Kollar's third as head coach at Blackburn. Kollar is 26-29 overall in Carlinville and 20-18 in SLIAC play. Kollar has directed the Beavers to 16-14 overall record since the beginning of last season.
Kollar is a 2005 graduate of Elmhurst where he played for Eureka College Hall of Famer Mark Scherer. Kollar owns prior coaching experience as an assistant at St. Francis (Ill.) and Benedictine.