Sophomore forward Wendell Davis hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds to play, giving Ashland University's men's basketball team a 59-57 victory Thursday (Dec. 11) night at previously-undefeated Hillsdale.
The Eagles now are alone in first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division in the early part of the 2014-15 season. Ashland now is 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the GLIAC, while the Chargers now are 4-1, 2-1.
Davis' late-game heroics mark the second time in three GLIAC games the Eagles have had to win late. A week earlier, senior guard Cole Krizancic hit a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Ashland past Grand Valley State in four overtimes, 93-92. Davis' free throws came after Hillsdale rallied from a 7-point deficit with 1:37 to play.
Davis scored a game-high 12 points, and he now has led Ashland in scoring in seven of eight games this season. He added a team-high nine rebounds, as well, and that marks the fourth time Davis has led or tied for the team lead in boards in 2014-15.
Senior guard DaWuan Thomas added 11 points in the victory. Junior center Michael Hundley had seven rebounds, four points and four blocks in 20 minutes, while freshman forward Marsalis Hamilton came off the bench for eight points and six boards in just 19 minutes.
Ashland's defense, its calling card so far this season, was strong again against Hillsdale. The Chargers shot just 35.6 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range, and the Eagles pilfered 18 turnovers and turned them into 18 points.
In 16 halves of basketball this season (not counting the four five-minute overtime periods), the Eagles have given up 30 or fewer points in 10 of them. Ashland came into Thursday's game allowing the 14th-fewest points per game in the country (60.9), and the fifth-best opponents' field-goal percentage (35.5) in Division II.
Ashland trailed 22-13 with 8:44 to go before halftime, but went on a 13-2 run over the next six minutes to go ahead 26-24. The Eagles led 31-30 at halftime, and extended that advantage to 38-30 early in the second half. AU led by 11 at 52-41 at the 7-minute mark of the second half.
The Eagles return to Michigan Sunday (Dec. 14) at 3 p.m. to take on Saginaw Valley State (4-2, 2-0) – Ashland's last GLIAC game of the first semester.
NOTES: Thursday's victory was Ashland head coach John Ellenwood's 72nd at Ashland, one behind Fred Schmuck (73) for fifth in program history. Ellenwood also coached his 140th game for the Eagles Thursday, tying George Donges for fourth in program history.