THE OPENING TIP-OFF
The holidays are nearly here, and the Eureka men's basketball team is taking a two-week break from St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
In the meantime, the Red Devils have a pair of road challenges on tap.
On Friday, Eureka will face Division II Maryville on the road at 3:15 p.m. Then, before the calendar flips to the new year, EC will play at Dallas on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.
Eureka enters its Division II challenge against a former St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe with a 6-2 record, and as one of the six teams with a 2-1 mark in the league.
The Red Devils are coming off one of their biggest bumps in the road they've encountered this season — a 96-84 loss to Westminster that snapped a five-game winning streak.
EC saw their third SLIAC game of the season get away from them when they were outshot 40.5 to 53.3 percent in field-goal percentage by the visiting Blue Jays — and conceded 16 3-pointers.
The Red Devils did, however, see a pair of players record career highs in scoring. Sophomore Jalen Hosea dropped a career-best 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while junior J'Len Crawford came off the bench and put up a career-best 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting and hit 4 of 6 3s.
Senior Dakota Bennington remains the SLIAC's leading scorer at 23.9 points per game, while classmate Austin Juergens is fourth at 20. Bennington and Juergens are also second and fifth in free throws with 40 in 54 tries and 26 in 30, respectively.
Juergens is third in the league in free-throw percentage at 86.7, followed by junior Ian Milsteadt at 85. Bennington is third in steals with 24. Junior center Jaedon Banks, meanwhile, is second in the league in blocks with 16.
Through eight games, the Red Devils lead the SLIAC in rebounding at 45.6 boards per game, and are second in scoring at 93.8 points per game. They also hold the league's highest free-throw percentage.
Maryville holds a losing record at 3-4 through seven games.
The Saints are 0-1 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, and are last in the league in points per game (67.4), rebounding defense (41) and assists (9.6), and second to last in scoring defense (73.7) and field goal percentage (40.8),
Still, they've seen a different level of competition in Division II play. The team's wins have come over Tiffin University (83-76 in overtime), St. Louis College of Pharmacy (77-61) and Lincoln University (65-61). Its losses have come against Walsh University (87-63-), Hannibal LaGrange (75-65), Ohio Dominican (84-60) and Missouri S&T (72-59).
The Saints top scorers are twin brothers Parker and Owen Long. The leading scorer is Parker Long, who is averaging 17.9 points per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from 3-pointer range and distributing five assists per game.
Owen Long is adding 10.4 points per game while shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and 34.2 from distance. Another freshman, Eze Kamto, leads the team in rebounding, pulling down 7.2 boards per game. Jalen Gant, Antoine Pittman and Dezmond McDaniel provide senior leadership.
Through six games, Dallas is 4-2.
The Crusaders opened the season with four straight wins over Arlington (83-56), Hendrix (71-57), Southwestern Adventist (89-45) and Whittier (85-71), but have dropped their past two to Chapman (59-39) and Hendrix (77-54), respectively.
They'll take on St. Thomas on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Centenary College of Louisiana on Saturday at 2 p.m. before a nine-day break that ends when Eureka comes to town.
Dallas is currently averaging 70.2 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 35 percent from distance. It's racking up 42.2 rebounds and 15.7 assists per game.
Juniors Michael Wambsgannss and Dustin Mathis average double figures of 14.8 and 13.5 points per game, respectively.