THE TURNING POINT: Leading 70-68 with 1:11 to play, Ashland got two free throws and a layup to effectively ice the game.
STAT OF THE GAME: The Eagles are 9-1 in their last 10 road conference games decided by eight points or less.
NORTH CANTON - It wouldn't be a road game for Ashland University's men's basketball team in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference if it wasn't close late.
And lately, it wouldn't be a close, late conference contest for the Eagle men if they didn't win it. Such was the case on Thursday (Jan. 26) night at Walsh, as Ashland held on for a 76-71 win against the Cavaliers.
Ashland is 12-6 overall and 7-5 in the GLIAC, and alone in second place in the GLIAC South Division with its fifth consecutive victory. The Cavaliers are 13-6, 6-6.
"You put two minutes on the clock, make it a close game, and that's kind of where we are," said Ashland head coach John Ellenwood. "We didn't play our best basketball tonight, but we played together and found a way to get it done."
It was the Boo Osborne Show early, as the senior guard scored 14 points in the first 5:02 of the game – including four 3-pointers – to give Ashland a 16-7 lead. That lead grew to 23-11 with seven straight points on a triple from senior forward Torin Wetzel, two free throws from sophomore guard Nick Bapst and a layup courtesy of junior forward Marsalis Hamilton.
Walsh, however, went on a 9-0 run of its own, as the Cavaliers' super seniors Zac Carter and Trey Fletcher started to warm up. That was halted by Ashland's sixth trey of the half by sophomore forward Phil Frentsos.
The Cavs kept their foot on the gas, and they tied the game at 30 with 4:10 left until halftime. Osborne got back on the scoresheet with a put-back late in the first half, then he nailed his fifth triple in the final seconds for a 19-point half – and, more importantly, a 40-37 Ashland lead at the break.
Ashland's clamp-down defense kept Carter, Fletcher and the Cavaliers in check to start the second half, as Walsh was held scoreless for the first 2:54. Fletcher's foul at the 15:23 mark was the Cavs' seventh of the half, and the Eagles were in the bonus for the rest of the game.
Two free throws by senior guard Adrian Cook put Ashland up 52-43 with 13:32 to go, and the Eagles led 57-50 at the 9:44 mark. But Walsh began to chip away at its deficit once again, cutting it down to 57-55.
Ashland's four-minute dry spell ended on Osborne's sixth triple – and the team's 10th – of the game. A 68-59 Eagle lead with 3:11 remaining was aided by a frustration offensive foul on Fletcher, his fourth.
Yet another close GLIAC road game turned into another close GLIAC road victory when sophomore point guard Ben Haraway hit two free throws for the final margin of victory.
Osborne ended with a game-high 23 points, including a 6-for-8 showing from 3-point range. Hamilton added 17 points and six rebounds.
"Both of those guys were a 1-2 punch tonight. That was great," Ellenwood said. "Both those guys had great offensive games. Boo did a great job in the first half, Sell did a great job in the second half."
For Walsh, junior Jameel Moore had 21 points to lead the way, followed by Carter (20) and Fletcher (17).
Ashland shot 49 percent from the field, 50 percent from the arc and 80 percent from the charity stripe (12-of-14 in the second half).
UP NEXT: Fan Fest, and a No. 1 vs. No. 2 South Division matchup on Saturday (Jan. 26) at 3 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium vs. Findlay (15-4, 9-3).