Preview: Blackburn, Midnight Madness Due Up For Eureka

Photo courtesy of Bob Hunt.
Photo courtesy of Bob Hunt.

CARLINVILLE, Ill. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team will play two games in a 14-hour span beginning Saturday afternoon when the Red Devils visit St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Blackburn for a 1 p.m. league game in Carlinville, Ill. Eureka will face a quick turnaround early Sunday morning for its third annual "Midnight Madness" game, a 12 a.m. non-conference tip-off against Lincoln Christian at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.

PDF Version of Eureka Women's Basketball Game Notes

The Red Devils own a 3-4 overall record and an even 1-1 SLIAC mark through the season's first three weeks. The Red Devils lead the SLIAC and rank 10th nationally in points per game with 82.3. Senior guard Hayley Reneau leads the offense with 25.3 points per game, the second-highest average in Division III. Reneau also ranks sixth in field goals (64), 14th in 3-pointers (24) and 22nd in steals per game (4.0).
Eureka, which won at Rockford on Nov. 18 and rolled to a 30-point win at MacMurray last Saturday, is looking to win its third consecutive true road game for just the third time since November 2013.
Eight letterwinners return from Eureka's 20-win team that swept the the SLIAC regular season and tournament championships and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Seven of the returnees played in at least 27 games and four started at least 14 contests. 
According to the NCAA's latest national statistic update on Thursday, Dec. 7, Eureka leads the nation in team assists per game with 22.4. The Red Devils have distributed 157 assists through the season's first seven games. The average of 22.4 assists per game has EC on pace to challenge last season's single-season team record of 498 assists.
Eureka's team assist total is led by the potent one-two backcourt punch of Kennedy and Kerrigan Dura. The sisters from Edwards, Ill. both rank among the national top-five in assists per game. Kennedy ranks second in the country 8.3 assists per game and Kerrigan ranks tied for fourth with 7.0 assists on average.
With three assists Saturday, Kerrigan will become the seventh player in program history with 300 career assists. Her current total of 297 ranks seventh in program history.
Illinois Wesleyan produced a 34-point second quarter to turn a slim first-quarter lead into a 23-point halftime cushion en route to a 94-67 non-conference win over the Eureka College women's basketball team, Monday night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. Hayley Reneau paced the hosts with a game-high 23 points.
Eureka trailed 19-16 after one quarter. The Titans opened the second quarter with a flurry, scoring 14 in a row to grab a 33-16 lead. EC later trailed 41-25 when Reneau connected from long range with 4:40 remaining before halftime. IWU answered by scoring 12 of the next 17 points and took its biggest lead of the half, 53-30, when Kelsey Walsberg banked in a 3 at the first-half buzzer.
IWU led 77-45 after three periods. Eureka closed the game on a 13-2 burst. Ashley Harfst scored 13 points and Sabrina Clay tacked on 12. Kennedy Dura and Kerrigan Dura finished the game with seven assists apiece.
Blackburn won its season opener, a 61-46 home victory over Robert Morris-Springfield, but has dropped six in a row since then for a 1-6 overall record. The Beavers are 0-2 in SLIAC action, falling 76-62 to MacMurray and 88-60 at Fontbonne. 
Blackburn scores 56.6 points per game as a team. The Beavers shoot 34 percent from the field and just 15 percent from 3-point range, averaging 2.3 triples per game. Freshman guard Kate Smith leads BC with 9.1 points per game and junior forward Gariel Pierce gets a team-best 9.4 rebounds per contest.
BC is in search of its first winning season since going 15-12 and advancing the to the SLIAC Tournament championship game in 2009-10.
Eureka has beaten Blackburn 12 consecutive times -- with an average margin of victory of 26.2 points -- since January 2012. The Red Devils own a 43-14 record against the Beavers since 1983 and a 17-9 mark in Carlinville during that stretch. 
Eureka swept the season series from Blackburn last season with a pair of lopsided victories. The Red Devils won in Carlinville to open the league schedule on Nov. 30, 2016, 81-39, and later beat the Beavers at the Reagan Athletic Complex on Jan. 21, 84-32. The 52-point margin of victory was Eureka's largest in a SLIAC game since joining the league prior to the 2006-07 season.
The Red Devils will quickly return to campus following Saturday's tilt in Carlinville to prepare for their third annual "Midnight Madness" game. EC will host non-conference rival Lincoln Christian in a 12 a.m. tip-off Sunday morning. Eureka will be playing the Red Lions for the first time since the 2012-13 season and is a perfect 19-0 against LCU since December 1998.
Lincoln Christian owns a 1-6 record this season, earning its lone victory in a 51-40 triumph over Grace (Neb.) last Saturay in Lincoln. The Red Lions dropped a 93-53 decision to Greenville on Nov. 21. 
Amos Arbogast is in his first season as head coach of the Red Devils. He was selected as the 12th head coach in program history on July 6, 2017. Arbogast had previously served the EC men's basketball program as an assistant coach for six seasons and played pivotal role as an assistant for a program that has proved to be an annual contender in the SLIAC.
Dr. James Chandler is in his first season as head coach at Blackburn. The 1992 Blackburn graduate won more than 200 games as a high school coach in the state of Missouri prior to his appointment at his alma mater. He is in search of his first SLIAC victory.
The head coach at Lincoln Christian is Christian Lowry. The former LCU men's hoops star owns an 8-21 record in his second season directing the Red Lions.