The AU men's basketball team has a chance to host a first-round GLIAC Tournament game with a couple wins this week against Saginaw Valley State and Northwood.
FINISH STRONG: The Ashland University men's basketball team will play its final regular season games this week when it plays host to Saginaw Valley State and Northwood at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles will recognize the four seniors on the squad – Wendell Davis, Marsalis Hamilton, Teddy Metzen and Brandon Wagner – prior to Saturday's game.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: With their win over Purdue Northwest on Saturday, the Eagles clinched a spot in the GLIAC Tournament and are currently tied with Michigan Tech in fifth place in the conference standings. Ashland is one game behind Northern Michigan for fourth place, which includes the rights to host a first-round GLIAC Tournament game. The Eagles also own the tiebreaker over both Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech via their sweep of the two schools in the Upper Peninsula during the first week of January. Therefore, two Ashland wins and one loss by NMU this week would secure a home playoff game on Feb. 28. Ferris State has locked up the GLIAC Tournament's No. 1 seed.
REGIONAL RANKINGS, ED. 1: The Eagles were not included in the first edition of the NCAA Division II Midwest Region rankings that came out last Wednesday. Two GLIAC schools – No. 1 Ferris State and No. 4 Lake Superior State – were ranked in the top 10. The next rankings will be announced Wednesday, Feb. 21. The top eight teams in the region will earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The field will be announced at 10:30 p.m. on March 4. Automatic bids will be issued to the tournament champions of the GLIAC, Great Lakes Valley Conference and Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: AU dropped a 64-57 game at Grand Valley State last Thursday. The Eagles led for much of the second half, but were unable to get a basket in the final five minutes as the Lakers regained the lead and pulled away. On Saturday at Purdue Northwest, the Eagles led from start to finish, using a 27-3 run at the end of the first half to take a 44-23 lead into halftime. AU cruised in the second half and had five scorers reach double figure in the 95-52 victory.
LARGE MARGIN: The 43-point win by the Eagles over the Pride was AU's largest margin of victory in the nine-year tenure of head coach John Ellenwood. It was Ashland's largest margin of victory since a 111-59 triumph over Tiffin that opened the 2007-08 season.
DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: The Eagles showcased their defensive prowess against Purdue Northwest on Saturday, holding the Pride to just 30.2 percent (19-63) shooting from the field. That was the lowest field goal percentage for an AU opponent since Jan. 30, 2016 when the Eagles held Tiffin to a 27.6 percent (19-68) mark in a 70-51 win. Ashland still maintains the top defense in the GLIAC, giving up just 65.8 points per game – a mark that ranks 17th nationally. AU also leads the conference in opponent field goal percentage, allowing offenses to shoot just 42 percent on the season.
HARAWAY HITS 1,000: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway scored his 1,000th collegiate point on Saturday. He has now scored 636 points in an AU uniform, adding to the 379 points he scored with Malone in 2014-15 when he was the GLIAC Freshman of the Year. After sitting out the 2015-16 season because of in-conference transfer rules, Haraway averaged 10.6 points per game as a redshirt-sophomore last season. This year, Haraway is averaging 12.7 points per game while shooting 47.7 percent (124-260) from the field and 39.6 percent (36-91) from 3-point range. On the defensive end, Haraway has moved into second on the team with 16 blocks this season and has 10 of those in the last eight games.
BEN'S MINI-RUN: Haraway has been on a great run of play lately, having scored in double figures in nine of the last 11 games. Just in the last four games, the 6-foot-1 Norwalk, Ohio native is averaging 16 points per game while shooting 64.7 percent (22-34) from the field and 72.7 percent from 3-point range (8-11). Haraway played 73 minutes last week and committed just one turnover.
SERIES VS. CARDINALS: The Eagles are 12-13 all-time against Saginaw Valley State with the Cardinals winning the last six matchups between the schools. The Cardinals won, 72-66, in a game at Saginaw last month. Ashland's last win in the series came Jan. 19, 2012 with a 72-52 triumph at Kates Gymnasium. The games have traditionally been low-scoring affairs with neither team scoring 80 points in any of the games in the last nine seasons.
SERIES VS. 'WOLVES: The Eagles are 17-11 all-time against Northwood. The Timberwolves have not visited Kates Gymnasium since Jan. 2, 2015 when they knocked off the Eagles, 73-72. AU last beat Northwood at Kates, 69-67, on Dec. 17, 2012. Prior to a 10-point defeat earlier this season, the Eagles had won the previous two games against Northwood. Ellenwood is 5-5 lifetime against the Timberwolves.
WENDELL'S IMPACT: Redshirt-senior forward Wendell Davis has made an incredible imprint on the AU men's basketball program in his four-plus years with the Eagles. He is capping his career with his finest seasson yet, averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the floor, 46.3 percent from 3-point range and 79.4 percent from the line. All of those figures rank in the top 10 in the GLIAC. He also leads the league in 3-pointers made (74), nearly doubling the number of treys he made in his first three seasons (40). Davis ranks second in program history in scoring and third in rebounds. He also is just the second player in program history (LeBron Gladden) to have scored 500 points in three different seasons. Davis could also become the first player since Evan Yates in 2011-12 to average at least 20 points per game. This season, Davis has scored double figures in 24 of 26 games and at least 20 points on 16 occassions. He has been named GLIAC South Player of the Week seven times.
A.T. BREAKOUT: Redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson put together the best offensive game of his young career on Saturday against Purdue Northwest, scoring a career-best 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with six boards. He is 3-for-5 from 3-point range in the last three games and has raised his overall shooting percentage to 43.5 percent (40-92).
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: Davis is among the final 50 players on the Small College Basketball Bevo Francis Award watch list.