The No. 19-ranked Eagles hit the road this week for the only time in a nearly two-month stretch as they take their unblemished record to Grand Valley State and Davenport.
TO THE ROAD: The Eagles will hit the road this week for the first time since Nov. 9 as they take on Grand Valley State and Davenport in greater Grand Rapids, Mich. Those teams have a combined for a 13-2 overall record in the early season and will present challenges to the Eagles in their first look at GLIAC South action.
PERFECT SIX: The Eagles are 6-0 on the young season and are off to their best start since winning the first eight games of the 2015-16 season when they ended a 25-year drought between NCAA Tournament appearances for the program.
HOME AGAIN SOON: After this two-game road swing, the Eagles will be back in the friendly confines of Kates Gymnasium for five straight home games that will take them into the second week of January. Ashland will play just two road games from Nov. 11 to Jan. 9. They will have three games – against Lawrence Tech, Kentucky Christian and Westminster – over Winter Break before resuming the GLIAC schedule on Jan. 3 against Michigan Tech.
IN THE TOP 25: The Eagles, after being just outside the Top 25 in last week's NABC Division II Coaches' Poll, made their debut in this week's rankings, slotting in at the No. 19 spot. It is AU's first appearance in the national coaches poll since the final rankings of the 2015-16 season when they were No. 12. This is Ashland's 76th appearance in the national coaches' poll all-time.
BEST OF THE GLIAC SOUTH: The Eagles are plenty used to having players win GLIAC weekly honors with Wendell Davis claiming eight of the 14 awards last year. Redshirt-sophomore swingman Aaron Thompson is starting the trend afresh this season winning the GLIAC South Player of the Week award. The 6-foot-3 Toledo, Ohio native was outstanding in Ashland's two wins last week, averaging 19.5 points, 12 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.5 assists and one block per game while posting two double-doubles. He also shot 76 percent (16-21) from the floor and 86 percent (6-7) from the line while also hitting his only 3-point attempt.
A.T.'S WEEK, CONT.: Thompson scored a career-high 27 points on 10-12 shooting in the win over Lake Superior State on Thursday. It bested his previous career high by 12 points. He also had 10 rebounds and two steals in the game. Thompson followed that up with 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds against Ferris State on Saturday, shooting 6-9 from the field and adding three steals and two assists in 38 minutes.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: Ashland posted a pair of impressive home wins last week, toppling Lake Superior State, 82-68, on Thursday before beating defending national champion Ferris State on Saturday, 91-88, in a thriller at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles were extremely efficient offensively, shooting at least 58 percent in both games. Ashland also showed its ability to play multiple styles of play, especially against Ferris State's pressure defense.
HARAWAY ON STYLE: "We can play a slow-paced game, because we have good bigs. And then when teams press us we still have really good guards who can break the press, so we can play either way."
LEADING REBOUNDER: Thompson has been a dominant force on the glass for the Eagles, averaging 10.5 rebounds per game in the first six contests. That figure leads the GLIAC by nearly three full rebounds per game and ranks ninth nationally. He also is second in the country in defensive rebounding (8.8). Thompson had 13 defensive rebounds against the Bulldogs.
TEAM EFFORT ON THE GLASS: Thompson is not the only one putting forth the effort cleaning up misses. Ashland leads the GLIAC and is 23rd in the nation in rebounding margin (+8.3 per game). The Eagles more than doubled LSSU on the glass in Thursday's win, holding a 38-18 edge and allowing just four offensive rebounds to the Lakers.
SERIES VS. GVSU: The Eagles hold a 16-19 overall record against Grand Valley State after the teams split two meetings last year, each winning on their home floors. The last game was in Allendale – a 64-57 win for the Lakers – after Ashland toppled GVSU earlier in the season, 89-80, at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles have lost two straight at GVSU Fieldhouse Arena, having last won there on Dec. 3, 2015, 76-72 in overtime. Head coach John Ellenwood is 5-7 all-time against the Lakers.
SERIES VS. DAVENPORT: The Eagles and Panthers have only a brief history together after Davenport joined the GLIAC last season. The teams split two meetings with the Eagles winning, 86-65, at Kates Gymnasium before DU took a 73-65 decision in Grand Rapids on Feb. 3. Those are the only two meetings in the programs' histories.
DREW'S POST PLAY: In Ashland's 91-88 win over Ferris State, the Eagles threw the ball into their big man, junior Drew Noble, and let the 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio native go to work. He finished the game with a career-high 33 points on 10-18 shooting, while also going 13-13 at the line. In the second half, Noble scored 26 points by himself and was 8-8 at the free throw line in the final three-plus minutes. Noble also matched a career high with four blocks and collected five rebounds. He ranks fifth in the GLIAC in scoring (17.3) and seventh in rebounding (6.7).
CALDWELL ON NOBLE: "Drew is probably the most unselfish big man (I've played with), so it feels good. Most games he's looking to pass, so it feels good when he gets to go off because he deserves it. I was happy for him."
BACKCOURT COMBO: The duo of fifth-year senior Ben Haraway and junior transfer Rodrick Caldwell pack quite a scoring punch in the AU backcourt. Caldwell ranks just behind Noble in scoring with 17.2 points per game and leads the squad with 14 3-pointers, including eight in the last two games on 50 percent shooting from long distance. He is the only player to have scored in double figures in all six games. Meanwhile, Haraway is scoring at a 12.5 points-per-game rate, shooting 48 percent (31-65) from the floor.
SIXTH MAN: Senior forward Phil Frentsos has featured nicely as Ellenwood's first man off the bench. He is playing major minutes, seeing 29 minutes per game last week and scoring six points in each outing. Frentsos also provided three rebounds and two assists per game last week and provides defensive energy and ball movement on the offensive end.
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.