Preview: Red Devils Eyeing Blackburn Sweep

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

EUREKA — The Eureka women can extend their winning streak against Blackburn to 16 games with another victory over the Beavers on Thursday.

The Red Devils will host their St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic foes at 5:30 p.m. inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center.

ABOUT EUREKA  

After a three-game winning streak, Eureka returns to Reagan Athletic Complex coming off back-to-back conference losses. Last Wednesday, Spalding pulled away late for a 78-59 win, and the Red Devils weren't able to close the gap in an 87-74 loss at Westminster on Saturday.

Eureka is now 8-10 on the season and 3-7 in the SLIAC, looking for a confidence boost against a team it's already beaten once this season.

The Red Devils are the fifth-highest scoring team in the SLIAC, putting up 70.7 points per game. They're fourth in the conference in 3-point shooting (30.9 percent), free-throw shooting (67 percent), assists (18.1), steals (10.2) and blocks (3.2).

With three players averaging over 11 points per game and two right under 10, EC has options on the offensive end.

On Saturday, senior Samantha Sarnes (12.6 points per game) dropped a career-high 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. Junior Ashley Harfst (11.6 points per game) added 19 points and freshman Olivia Falls (9.5 points per game) contributed 13. That trio shot 51.8 percent from the floor.

Junior Kennedy Dura (9.7 points per game), who dished a team-high five assists against Westminster, remains the SLIAC's assists leader (87), and freshman Josie Morgan (11 points per game) is the team's top 3-point threat (35.3 percent).

Harfst and Falls lead the team in rebounding, averaging 6.3 and 6.2 boards, respectively.

Eureka returns two starters and three letterwinners from last season's 18-win team that went to the SLIAC Tournament semifinals for the seventh consecutive season. The Red Devils were picked fifth in a preseason SLIAC poll conducted by league head coaches.

ABOUT BLACKBURN

Blackburn still only has one win in SLIAC play this season. The Beavers took down MacMurray in overtime back in late November and have lost 10 straight conference contests since then, most recently falling to SLIAC leader Greenville 69-53 on Saturday.

They average 60.3 points per game (seventh-highest in the SLIAC) on 35.9 percent shooting from the field, and give up 74.5 points per game (eighth-lowest in the SLIAC). Earlier this season, they outshot the Red Devils from the field, 40.7 percent to 32.3 percent, but a scoreless streak that lasted for five minutes, 10 seconds led to their demise.

Sophomore guard Jenna Dudra is the team's leading scorer at 13.3 points per game. A volume shooter, Dudra has made the fourth most field goals in the SLIAC (108 of 280 attempts), and has the second most steals in the conference (59).

Savannah Kruse and Daaiyah Wardell average 12.4 and 10.5 points, respectively. Senior center Gariel Pierce pulls down 8.5 boards per game.

RECENT HISTORY

Blackburn has been one of the Red Devils' most frequent opponents over the last several decades. Eureka is 46-14 in its last 60 matchups with the Beavers since 1983, and 17-8 since becoming SLIAC rivals prior to the 2006-07 season.

The Red Devils have won 15 straight over BC since an 88-66 win in Carlinville on Jan. 18, 2012. All but two of the victories on EC's current streak have been by double digits.

The most recent meeting, of course, was one of the exceptions.

On Dec. 15, Eureka led by as many as 14 points in the second half after a 17-0 run in the third quarter gave the Red Devils the upper hand. Blackburn drew within nine in the end, though, falling 71-62.

Dura posted a game-high 21 points and recorded a career-high high nine steals in a defensive-driven win for the Red Devils. Sarnes added 19 points, Morgan posted 15 points and five steals, while Sierrah Seals pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds.

Maria Cline delivered 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Blackburn, and Savannah Kruse added 14 and nine.

MEET THE HEAD COACHES

Amos Arbogast is in his second season directing the Red Devils. The 2006 Iowa graduate directed Eureka to 18 wins last season, the most victories by a first-year EC head coach since Hall of Famer Sandy Schuster piloted EC to a 19-7 mark in 1991-92. 

Arbogast, who served the Eureka men's basketball program as an assistant for six seasons prior to his appointment, welcomed nine newcomers to the program for the 2018-19 campaign.

Dr. James Chandler is in his second 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.

Chandler played three years of varsity basketball at BC from 1986-1990.  As a player he was named to the all-conference team and also traveled to New Zealand as a member of the National Little College Athletic Association All-Star Team.

FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE

Eureka will provide a live online video broadcast of Wednesday's game. Links will be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, SLIAC.org and D3hoops.com. Amos Arbogast is in his second season directing the Red Devils.