Preview: Red Devils Begin SLIAC Tournament Title Defense Friday

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

GREENVILLE, Ill. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team will begin its St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship defense Friday night when the second-seeded Red Devils take on third-seeded Webster in a 6 p.m. semifinal in Greenville, Ill.

PDF Version of Eureka Women's Basketball Game Notes

The top four teams in the final SLIAC regular season-standings -- Greenville, Eureka, Webster and Westminster -- have qualified for the league's annual postseason tournament.  The tournament winner will represent the SLIAC in the NCAA Division III Tournament. 
Greenville went 15-1 against SLIAC opponents to win the regular-season SLIAC championship and the right to host the SLIAC Tournament for the first time.
The upcoming event marks the 23rd SLIAC Tournament since the league began competition during the 1990-91 season.
Eight different teams have won at least one SLIAC Tournament title, seven of which are still an active member of the league.  Blackburn has won a league-best six championships, including the first five crowns from 1991 through 1995.
Fontbonne owns the all-time lead with 20 wins at the event.  Blackburn has posted the tournament's best historic win percentage at .739 (17-6).
Eureka won last season's tournament at the Reagan Athletic Complex, routing fourth-seeded Fontbonne 86-55 in the semifinal and later downing then-defending tournament champion Greenville in the championship, 82-74.
The SLIAC is a combined 5-20 in the NCAA Division III Tournament since the league first received a bid in 1996.  Fontbonne (2001) and Webster (2002) have each qualified for the Sweet 16, the deepest any SLIAC team has advanced in the NCAA field.
The Red Devils finished the regular season 18-7 overall and 13-3 in the league for second place in the final SLIAC standings. Eureka has won four in a row and 11 of ist last 13 outings since Jan. 3. The Red Devils, one year removed from their first SLIAC Tournament title, are one of only three schools in the league's 29-year history to qualify for seven consecutive SLIAC Tournament semifinals.
Eureka scores 81.1 points per game, sixth-most in Division III and on pace to become the program's highest team scoring average in program history.
Senior guard Hayley Reneau paces an active Eureka offense with 22.0 points per game. That average currently leads the SLIAC, is sixth-most in Division III and is the fourth-highest single-season scoring average in program history. Her 550 total points rank fourth on the Red Devils' single-season list and her 75 3-pointers rank second. She has also been effective at the defensive end and can become the first Red Devils to log 100 steals in a season with four more thefts this season.
Senior Kerrigan Dura and sophomore sister Kennedy Dura also help drive the Eureka offense -- both players rank among the national top-seven in assists per game. Kennedy's 160 assists lead the league, rank fourth in Division III and are a single-season Eureka record. Kerrigan's 136 assists rank second in the league, fifth on the Red Devils' single-season list and 19th nationally. Additionally, Kerrigan's career assist total of 384 is second-most on EC's career list.
Junior Lexi Dooley has been solid in the paint for Eureka this season, leading the SLIAC and ranking 86th nationally with 9.7 boards per contest. She has collected 10 rebounds or more 11 times, including five straight outings from Jan. 20 through Feb. 3 and a school-record 22 rebounds in EC's league victory over MacMurray on Jan. 24.
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. 
This weekend's SLIAC Tournament marks the 12th conference tournament appearance for the Red Devils since beginning an exclusive affiliation with NCAA Division III in 1996.
Eureka is 4-5 in six previous trips to the SLIAC's annual postseason tournament, most notably winning its first SLIAC Tournament championship last season.The Red Devils have played for the SLIAC Tournament title in three of the last six seasons, previously advancing to the title game in 2012 and 2015.
Additionally, EC went 4-5 in five Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference Tournaments from 1999 through 2006. Eureka advanced to the title game in 2005 before falling at Rockford, 81-46.
Webster finished its regular season 18-6 overall and 12-4 for third place in the SLIAC. Like EC, the Gorloks have been on a roll since the first of the New Year with victories in 12 of their last 14 games. WU won eight in a row from Jan. 20 through Feb. 14 until suffering a 79-71 loss at Greenville last Saturday.
A trio of seniors drives the WU offensive attack. Aley Lucas, a forward from Sullivan, Mo., leads the Gorloks with 12.9 points per game. She shoots 45 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and 78 percent at the foul line. Forward Taylor Lucas follows with 10.3 points per game and guard Kelsey Miller averages 9.6. The Gorloks combine to score 77.0 points per game,  third-most in the league and 19th-most among more than 400 Division III teams.
The Gorloks do much of their damage within the turnover battle. WU forces 28.6 miscues per game, fourth-most in Division III. Webster also ranks fourth with a plus-12.2 average turnover margin and fourth with 17.2 steals per contest. Kelsey Miller (2.38) and Taylor Lucas (2.30) both rank among the national top-200 in steals per game.
Webster is in the SLIAC Tournament for the 18th time and previously earned titles in 2005 and 2011.
Webster leads the all-time series between the two schools, 16-14, but the Red Devils have won four of the last five and eight of the last eight versus Webster since January 2015.
Eureka and Webster split their home-and-home SLIAC series in 2017-18. Behind 19 points and 11 rebounds from Ashley Harfst, the Red Devils earned a 79-68 win over the Gorloks at the Reagan Athletic Complex on Dec. 16. WU got even with a 97-77 triumph over EC in St. Louis on Jan. 31. 
Eureka and Webster have met twice before in the SLIAC Tournament. The Gorloks eliminated Eureka from SLIAC Tournament semifinals in 2013 in Fulton, Mo. and in 2014 in Louisville, Ky., the only previous neutral-site meetings between the two programs.
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. Arbogast helped guide EC to consecutive berths to the SLIAC Tournament semifinals in 2012 and 2013, including an appearance in the title game in 2013.
Jefferson City, Mo. native Jordan Olufson is in his 10th season as the head coach at Webster. Olufson guided the Gorloks to a SLIAC Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2011. His 10-year record at WU is 148-111 and he is the program's all-time winningest coach.
Olufson came to Webster after a stint as an assistant coach at Central Missouri.  He played collegiately for Missouri Valley and Ashford before earning an undergraduate degree in sports and recreation management from AU in 2006 and a master's degree from Central Missouri.