The Eagles open GLIAC play this week with two GLIAC North strongholds visiting Kates Gymnasium - Lake Superior State and defending national champion Ferris State.
OPEN THE GLIAC: The Eagles open GLIAC play this week against a couple of the North Division's top teams. Lake Superior State visits Kates Gymnasium on Thursday before the defending national champ Ferris State comes on Saturday. While the two teams come into the weekend with a combined record of 7-5, both should figure in the top half of the GLIAC Tournament seeding as February rolls around.
FOUR-AND-OH START: The Eagles, who will have eight total off days between games, are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2015-16 season when they reeled off eight straight wins to start the season. This is the third time in 10th-year head coach John Ellenwood's tenure the Eagles have won four straight to start the season.
NEAR THE TOP 25: In the latest NABC Division II Coaches' Poll, the Eagles are receiving the most votes of any team ranked outside the Top 25. The last time the Eagles appeared in the Top 25 of the coaches poll was in the final rankings of the 2015-16 season when they were No. 12. Ferris State fell out of the Top 25 this week after losing games to current No. 9 Findlay and Lewis last week. Lake Superior State was receiving votes last week, but fell off of the list altogether after losing to GLVC powerhouses Indianapolis and Southern Indiana last week.
SERIES VS. LSSU: The Eagles are 12-15 all-time against Lake Superior State and are coming off a 69-62 win over the Lakers last season at Kates Gymnasium. LSSU won the first matchup between the teams last season in Sault Ste. Marie, 82-73. Ellenwood is 6-6 in his career against Lake Superior State.
SERIES VS. FERRIS: The Eagles hold an 8-24 all-time record against Ferris State. The Bulldogs claimed three wins last season, including a thrilling overtime decision at Kates Gymnasium in February and an 85-66 game in Big Rapids, Mich. in the GLIAC Tournament. Ferris State has won six straight against Ashland and has eliminated the Eagles from the GLIAC Tournament in each of the last four seasons. AU's last win against the Bulldogs came Dec. 5, 2015 at Ferris, 57-51.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles played just one game last week, defeating Seton Hill, 73-62, the day before Thanksgiving at Kates Gymnasium. The game was back-and-forth in the earlygoing before Ashland exploded for an 18-0 run in the first half to take a 30-11 lead that it would not relinquish as the Eagles led for nearly 37 minutes. The Griffins cut the margin down to one point on two occassions in the second half, but the Eagles responded to the second instance with an 8-0 run to push the lead back to nine, 61-52, with five minutes remaining.
OFFENSIVELY SPEAKING: The Eagles were consistent and balanced against Seton Hill offensively with four players scoring at least 11 points, including three hitting the 16-point mark. The Eagles also six players record an assist in the game. Ashland shot 49 percent from the floor, but had its worst performance of the brief season taking care of the ball as the Eagles turned it over 14 times. It was the first time this season AU turned it over more than its opponent.
POWER POST: With sophomore forward Derek Koch out with an injury last week, junior center Drew Noble took on an even larger role in the offense and exploited a size mismatch for 25 points and seven rebounds. He shot 11-14 from the field, marking a career high in field goals made. It was his seventh career 20-point game and his first this season. He was also one of five starters to play at least 32 minutes on the night. On the season, Noble ranks second on the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game while also pulling in seven rebounds per game. He is also tied with junior guard Rodrick Caldwell with 2.8 assists per game.
ELLENWOOD ON 8-DAY LAYOFF: "We're going to get better. We're going to get healthy and we're going to get better. When we come back, we've got some opponents that are really good. Our focus will sharpen a lot once we get to GLIAC week."
RODRICK'S GAME: Caldwell was crucial in the game's final minute as he sank all six of his free throw attempts to seal the win. Overall, he was 9-10 at the line and finished with 19 points, four assists and four rebounds. The Bowling Green State transfer is shooting 88.5 percent (23-26) from the line this season, good for fourth in the GLIAC. He is the team's leading scorer at 16.3 points per game.
NEXT MAN UP: With Koch out of the lineup, Ellenwood turned to senior forward Phil Frentsos, who posted his best performance of the season and one of the best in his career. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. He shot 4-5 from the field and made both of his 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Frentsos has been excellent on the boards all season, averaging four per game in just 19 minutes. Frentsos has appeared in 93 games in his Ashland career, but last week's game marked just his fourth career start. He was in the lineup in the first three games last season while Marsalis Hamilton missed with an injury.
REBOUND MACHINE: Redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson continues his development as an all-around player at an alarming rate (for opponents). In last week's win over Seton Hill, Griffin corralled a game-high 14 rebounds, including 13 on the defensive glass, despite standing just 6-foot-3. He did not find himself on the scoresheet, but played 32 minutes of hard defense and rebounding. This week, he will be relied upon to handle the toughest perimeter player for Lake Superior State and Ferris State on the defensive end.
ELLENWOOD ON THOMPSON: "The guy is a magnet to the ball on rebounds. Fourteen rebounds is huge. He's assigned the other team's best player. He does a lot more than scoring, and when he does score, it's a bonus for us, because we have some other guys on the floor to make up for that."
PICKED FIRST: The Eagles were picked to win the GLIAC South by the league's coaches, earning 10 of the 12 first-place votes in the division. Grand Valley State was picked second and Davenport third. Defending national champion Ferris State was picked to defend its GLIAC North crown with nine of the 12 first-place votes. Northern Michigan had the other three.