Preview: Red Devils Aim For First Sweep of Westminster Saturday

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

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College men's basketball team will host St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Westminster Saturday at 3 p.m. inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. A victory would give the Red Devils their first season series sweep of the Blue Jays in 12 seasons as foes in the SLIAC.

PDF Version of Eureka Men's Basketball Game Notes

Eureka has won two in a row and three of its last four games to own a 15-7 overall record and a 10-5 mark against SLIAC foes. The Red Devils are currently tied with Westminster for second place in the 10-team SLIAC. 
Eureka's season average of 90.2 points per game ranks 13th in Division III. Shea Feehan leads the way with a scoring average of 31.8, second-most nationally. Feehan also ranks sixth in the country with 4.0 3-point field goals per game. Ryan McElmurry has also made his mark this season, ranking 18th in Division III with 5.8 assists per game and 41st nationally with a 2.54 assist-to-turnover ratio.
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.
Eureka very much remains in contention for its first SLIAC regular-season title, trailing reigning champion Greenville (11-4) by a single game in the league standings with three games to go. The offense-heavy Panthers topped Blackburn on Wednesday and will visit Principia Saturday, make the 248-mile trip to Spalding next Wednesday and close out the regular season at home against Webster on Feb. 17.
The Red Devils are guaranteed to qualify for their first SLIAC Tournament since 2013 by winning at least two of their final three regular-season contests. The top four teams in the final standings qualify for the league's annual event to be hosted by the regular-season champion Feb. 22-24.
Brady Sanders scored a career-high 19 points, Ryan McElmurry hit five 3-pointers and Jordan Dehm finished with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, helping the Red Devils keep pace in the SLIAC race with a 96-70 league rout of Principia, Tuesday night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
The score was tied as late as the 5:45 mark of the period before EC used 19-4 run to end the half. Eureka hit three consecutive 3-pointers in the final 62 seconds, including back-to-back treys from Dehm to allow the Red Devils to lead 46-31 at halftime. Eureka kept a comfortable lead throughout the second half. The visitors regrouped to narrow the gap to 11 in the final seven minutes, but the Red Devils built the lead back to as many as 27 in the final minute
Sanders was 6-for-8 from the field and 7-for-9 at the line. He grabbed seven rebounds, distributed three assists and didn't commit a turnover in 29 minutes. McElmurry poured in 17 points and was 5-for-7 from long range. Dakota Bennington chipped in 16 points and nine boards and Dehm delivered the contest's only double-double, his second in a row.
Westminster is 14-8 overall and joins Eureka with a 10-5 SLIAC record. The Blue Jays have won five of their last six games since Jan. 20, including a 79-66 win over Iowa Wesleyan on Wednesday.
Sophomore guard Kobe Wands scores 19.6 points per game to lead the Blue Jays and ranks sixth in the league. Wands missed six games in January, a stretch in which the Blue Jays lost three times. WC is 4-1 since Wands returned to the lineup on Jan. 24. Junior forward Stu Hollandsworth adds 11.7 points per game and shares the team rebounding lead with Wands at 4.3 per contest.
The Blue Jays boast Division III's ninth-best turnover margin at plus-7.3. WC commits only 10.8 turnovers per game and commits only 15.0 fouls on average. One area Westminster struggles with is rebounding -- WC ranks near the bottom of Division III with 32.0 rebounds per game and a minus-7.4 average rebounding margin.
Westminster has won the last two SLIAC Tournament championships. In all, the Blue Jays have qualified for 18 SLIAC Tournaments, tied with in-state rival Webster for most in league history.
Saturday's bout is the 40th between the Red Devils and Blue Jays since January 1988. WC leads the all-time series, 24-15, and has won 10 of 18 against EC at the Reagan Athletic Complex. Eureka snapped a three-game skid against WC in last month's 95-59 victory in Fulton, Mo.
Dakota Bennington pumped in 25 points off the bench and Shea Feehan tacked on 22, paving the way for the Red Devils to secure a 95-59 league romp at Westminster on Jan. 10.
Eureka led 44-38 at halftime before using a dominant stretch over the game's final 16 minutes. Two Hank Thomas foul shots capped the Red Devils' 10-0 run for a 60-46 cushion. The EC advantage reached 20 when Feehan scored for a 68-48 lead. In all, Eureka closed the contest on a 45-13 barrage.
Steven Brandt scored 16 points to pace Westminster, which lost at home to end its eight-game win streak in Fulton.
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 132 wins at EC, third-most in the 99-year history of the program.
Matt Mitchell is currently in his 20th season directing the Blue Jays. The three-time SLIAC Coach of the Year has led WC to three SLIAC regular season championships, as well as the SLIAC Tournament titles in 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2017.
The Lexington, Mo. native played collegiately for Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson at Arkansas before earning his undergraduate degree from UA in 1987. He owns a master's degree from Western Illinois. Mitchell, who worked alongside EC head coach Chip Wilde as assistants at WIU during the 1988-89 season, also serves at WC's Senior Director of Athletic Advancement.