Preview: Eureka Returns Home Saturday For Webster

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

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball will look to win its fourth consecutive game to begin the 2017-18 home schedule when the Red Devils host Webster in a 3 p.m. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup Saturday at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

The Red Devils are 6-2 overall and join five other teams in a second-place tie in the early-season SLIAC standings with a 2-1 league record. Eureka is in search of a 3-1 SLIAC start for the second consecutive season and the third time since the 2011-12 campaign.
Eureka pours in 96.3 points per game, one of only nine teams in Division III to average at least 96.0 points per game through the first month of the season. 
Much of the offense comes from Shea Feehan. The junior guard ranks second nationally with 34.4 points per game this season, but his 44-game career scoring average of 26.6 points per game currently leads all NCAA players in all Divisions. Additionally, Feehan's career free throw percentage of 91.7 ranks second among Division III players and fourth among all NCAA men's basketball players.
Hank Thomas gives the Red Devils another high-scoring option in the backcourt. His 20.0 points per contest ranks fourth in the SLIAC and 73rd nationally. Feehan and Thomas are the top scoring tandem in the SLIAC and the Red Devils join Principia as the only two teams in the SLIAC to have two players that average 20.0 points per game.
Eureka has also excelled on the defensive glass this season. Led by Jordan Dehm's averages of 7.1 total rebounds and 5.4 defensive rebounds. the Red Devils rank fifth nationally with 34.5 defensive rebounds per contest.
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.
Hank Thomas paced the Red Devils with a game-high 18 points, but Blackburn rallied from a slow start to overcome the visitors in a 78-61 SLIAC victory last Saturday in Carlinville, Ill. The defeat, Eureka's first in league action, ended the Red Devils' five-game win streak.
Eureka led by double digits as late as the 13:02 mark of the first period before the Beavers quickly erased their deficit. Nigel Ferrell's dunk with 8:59 to play before halftime gave BC its first lead, 20-19. The Red Devils moved in front for the final time of the afternoon when Austin Juergens hit a 3 for a 27-25 cushion. Blackburn regained the lead, 28-27, on a free throw from Jordan Clay with just 3:46 to go before intermission. BC's 38-32 halftime cushion was its biggest advantage of the half.
Blackburn began to create separation shortly after halftime, scoring 16 of the first 22 points after the break.
Thomas tallied 18 points in 28 minutes. Donald Hardaway, Jr. came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers en route to nine points while Juergens, Koby White and Austin Zielsdorf pitched in six points apiece. Alex Wiegand collected six rebounds.
The Gorloks have won three consecutive games since Dec. 2 to improve their record to 5-4 overall. WU dropped its league opener at Westminster, 84-55, but recovered to earn SLIAC wins in St. Louis over Principia (78-75) and Fontbonne (84-74) to secure a sixth-way tie for second place in the current league standings with a 2-1 record. 
WU boasts a balanced offensive attack behind four players that average at least 10.6 points per game. Sophomore Josh Johnson leads the group with 14.0 points per contest. Freshman Christian Crespo adds an average of 13.8 points on 57 percent shooting and sophomore Enrique Tankins tacks on 11.4 points per game contest. Another freshman, Nigel Wilcox, hauls down a team-best 7.3 rebounds per game and is the Gorloks' most accurate shooter at 62 percent.
As a team, Webster put up 74.3 points per game to rank seventh among 10 SLIAC teams. WU shoots 47 percent from the field, ranks second among league offenses with 18.7 assists per game and commits only 12.1 turnovers per game. The team assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.54 is 13th-best among 416 NCAA Division III teams. The Gorloks are among the SLIAC's worst free-throw shooting teams, ranking ninth in team percentage (61.6) and last in makes per game (6.8).
A charter member of the SLIAC, Webster is the winningest men's basketball program in league history. WU has won 266 SLIAC games between the regular season and postseason tournament since beginning competition in 1990. The Gorloks have won eight SLIAC regular-season titles, including at least a share of the crown in five of the last 11 seasons. Additionally, Webster won SLIAC Tournament championships in 2011 and 2014.
Webster and Eureka have met 28 times in men's basketball since the Gorloks began fielding a team in 1984. WU leads the all-time series, 17-11, and has won five of its last seven against the Red Devils since February 2014.
Eureka and Webster split six non-conference meetings prior to the Red Devils' entry into the SLIAC in 2006. EC won the first-ever matchup in the series, a 93-78 decision in St. Louis on Jan. 12, 1986.
The road team won both games of last season's home-and-home SLIAC series. Eureka went 22-for-22 from the free throw line in an 86-78 victory in St. Louis on Jan. 9, 2017, but the Gorloks got even less than a month later with an 88-77 triumph on Dave Darnall Court on Feb. 1.
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.
One of the longest tenured men's basketball head coaches in the SLIAC, Chris Bunch is in his 16th season at Webster. His record is 236-164. Six of the Gorloks' eight SLIAC championships have come with Bunch on the bench. He is a four-time SLIAC Coach of the Year and piloted the Gorloks to NCAA Tournament berths in 2011 and 2014. Prior to his appointment at Webster in 2002, the 1988 Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) graduate served as an assistant coach at Maryville (Tenn.).