TIFFIN, Ohio – The Ashland University men's basketball team led for just four minutes, 32 seconds on Saturday (Dec. 16) afternoon, but the Eagles came away with a 58-54 win over host Tiffin at the Gillmor Student Center in GLIAC action.
The Eagles (8-3, 3-2 GLIAC) have now won three straight games and have just one nonconference game on Monday before heading into Christmas break.
"Our biggest thing going into break was making sure we finish out strong and today we pulled off a victory against a great team that played zone all game," said senior forward Wendell Davis. "That was a challenge for us, but we started to pick it apart toward the end and figure out where we could score. It was a great team win, going into Christmas, this is a great present."
The Eagles trailed by just a point, 31-30, at halftime after the Dragons (2-8, 0-5 GLIAC) led by as many as eight in the first half.
After the break, the Eagles locked in defensively, allowing the hosts to shoot just 31.8 percent (7-for-22) in the second half.
With 4:11 left in the second half, the Dragons took a 51-49 lead on a basket by leading scorer Alex Brown. The Eagles locked in defensively after that.
"When we got in the huddle, Sell (Marsalis Hamilton) said we have to get three stops in a row," Davis said. "If you get three in a row, that gives you three opportunities to score on a run-out or layup."
Sophomore center Drew Noble hit a short jumper in the paint to tie the game on AU's next possession. He then hit two free throws with three minutes to play to give Ashland a 53-51 lead – its first since 16 minutes remained in the second half.
With the score still 53-51, the Eagles got back-to-back stops with Davis hitting the deck to retrieve a loose ball and Hamilton drawing a charge in the lane to keep the Dragons off the board.
"Those were great senior plays," Davis said. "Those were winning plays where all it took was effort from us. That last five minutes, you saw a lot of effort plays defensively that won us the game."
Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway sank one of two free throws with 26 seconds left and the Eagles won a free throw contest from there as redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn and Noble each hit two free throws with under five seconds to play.
The Eagles won the battle on the glass, out-rebounding the Dragons, 32-27, and scored 17 second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds.
"If you're not shooting the ball well, you better find a way to get to the bucket and sometimes its rebounds," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "We knew they were going to play zone against us and we had to find a way to get it done.
Davis, Noble and Zahn had 14 points apiece to lead the Eagles. Davis also collected six rebounds and dished out six assists. Six of Noble's nine rebounds came on the offensive glass.
The Eagles will play host to West Virginia Wesleyan on Monday (Dec. 18) at 7:30 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium for their final game before Christmas break.