Preview: Eureka Readies For SLIAC Home Stretch

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

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball team will return to Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena Tuesday for a 7 p.m. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tilt with Principia. The contest against the Panthers is the Red Devils' first of three February home games.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

The Red Devils are 14-7 overall and 9-5 in the SLIAC to remain in the driver's seat for one of four SLIAC Tournament slots. Eureka is tied for second place in the current standings and trails reigning champion Greenville by a single game for the top spot with four league contests remaining.
Eureka has won two of its last three contests since dropping back-to-back league games to Greenville and MacMurray late last month. The Red Devils average 90.0 points per game, 13th-most in Division III and a half point behind last season's pace that set a new single-season team scoring record. EC also ranks among the national leaders with 33.8 defensive rebounds per game (second) 43.7 total rebounds per game (15th) and a .754 team free throw percentage (28th).
The Red Devils are in their 40th season as a member of NCAA Division III and their 12th 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.
Dakota Bennington scored a career-high 33 points, helping the Red Devils take a critical step in their pursuit of a SLIAC Tournament bid and sweep the season series from Spalding for the second year in a row in Saturday's 82-71 win over the Golden Eagles in Louisville, Ky.
The Red Devils carried a 33-23 advantage into intermission and maintained the double-digit lead for much of the second period. SU clawed within single digits when Dominique Ellis split two foul shots for a 60-51 score at the 6:44 mark. The Golden Eagles finally inched within six, 75-69, but Bennington's jumper stifled SU's rally moments later and the Red Devils went 5-for-6 at the free throw line over the final 71 seconds to keep the hosts' surge out of reach.
Bennington went 11-for-24 from the field and 10-for-11 at the charity stripe. He also collected eight rebounds. Juregens poured in 12 points off the bench and Jordan Dehm netted 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
Principia owns an 8-12 mark through its first 20 games, including an even 7-7 SLIAC mark that has the Panthers on the outside looking in at the SLIAC Tournament picture. PC was blown out at Blackburn last Saturday, 74-53, has lost four of its last six outings overall and seven consecutive true road contests since Dec. 2.
Micah Paulson scores 21.1 points per game to rank third among SLIAC players. Trevaughn Goodman tacks on 20.4 points per contest to rank fifth. Paulson and Goodman are the only set of teammates in the league to score at least 20.0 points per game apiece. Parker Davidson is the conference's second-leading rebounder with 10.9 on average.
PC has used the same starting five in all 20 games this season. All five starters average 32.4 minutes per game or more and no reserve has appeared in more than 15 contests. Paulson has played 799 minutes this season, fourth-most in Division III, and Davidson ranks seventh nationally with 779 minutes played. Despite its lack of depth, Principia ranks fifth nationally with a team field goal percentage of .506. At the defensive end, the Panthers' 87 total blocks are 47th-most in Division III.
Last season, the Panthers went 12-12 overall and 11-7 in league games to qualify for the SLIAC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2005. PC, one of six active charter members of the league, was picked seventh in this season's coaches poll.
Eureka has enjoyed significant success against Principia over the last four decades, owning a 40-8 record in the series since the 1974-75 campaign. The Panthers' recent resurgence has allowed them to win two of the last three in the series, but EC has won 10 of the last 12 overall and 20 of the last 21 in the Reagan Athletic Complex. Principia has dropped six in a row in Eureka, last beating the Red Devils on their home floor in a 90-87 win on Nov. 30, 2010, a game in which current head coach Todd Zimmerman scored 38 points.
Eureka rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit and held the lead as late as the 6:46 mark of the second half, but Principia held off the visitors' late push to secure a 94-88 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over the Red Devils in Elsah, Ill. on Jan. 6.
Shea Feehan scored 28 for EC. Dakota Bennington came off the bench for19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Hank Thomas tacked on 18 points. Ryan McElmurry finished with eight assists.
Micah Paulson tallied a game-high 34 points for PC. Jeff Ross compiled 15 points and 10 boards for a double-double and was joined by Parker Davidson with 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Panthers enjoyed a lopsided advantage at the charity stripe and took 32 trips to the line. Eureka, which entered the game with an average of more than 22 free throw attempts per game as the league's most accurate free-throw shooting team, shot just nine free throws.
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 131 wins at EC, third-most in the 99-year history of the program.
Todd Zimmerman is in his second season directing the Panthers and guided PC to its first SLIAC Tournament appearance in 12 years last season. Zimmerman, who has an overall record of 20-24 as head coach, served as an assistant to both the men's and women's basketball programs at Principia prior to his appointment as head coach.
A four-year letterwinner in men's basketball at Principia (2007-11), Zimmerman is the Panthers' all-time leader in points (1,556) and assists (431).