The No. 16-ranked Ashland University men's basketball team will play their final two nonconference games of the regular season on Wednesday (3 p.m.) and Dec. 29 (3 p.m.) against Kentucky Christian and Westminster.
Kentucky Christian (2-16) at #16 Ashland (9-0)
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 3:00 p.m.
Westminster (PA) (4-7) at #16 Ashland (9-0)
Saturday, Dec. 29, 3:00 p.m.
OVER CHRISTMAS BREAK: The Ashland University men's basketball team will play two games around the Christmas holiday break. The Eagles square off with Kentucky Christian on Wednesday at 3 p.m. before heading home for Christmas. The Eagles will return to Kates Gymnasium for the third game of a five-game homestand on Dec. 29 when they take on Westminster in their final nonconference game of the regular season.
HOME AT KATES: In a stretch from Nov. 10 to Jan. 9, the Eagles will have played just two games away from Kates Gymnasium. While Ashland has had no trouble winning away from their home court this season, Kates Gymnasium has long been a place where the Eagles have dominated. In his 10 years as head coach, John Ellenwood's teams have a winning percentage of 77.4 with a record of 106-31 at Kates Gymnasium. This seaosn, Ashland is 6-0 at home and is riding a nine-game home winning streak dating to last season.
9 AND OH: With their win over Lawrence Tech on Saturday, the Eagles have now won nine straight games to start the season. It matches the second-best start in school history – the other 9-0 start coming during the 1989-90 season. The following season (1990-91), the Eagles won their first 15 games en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
IN THE RANKINGS: With most teams across the country playing few games in the midst fall semester final exams, the NABC and D2SIDA did not issue new national polls this week. The final poll of 2018 will come out on Friday, Dec. 21. Currently, Ashland sits No. 16 in the nation in the NABC Division II coaches' poll, a jump of three spots from the previous week. The Eagles are also ranked in the D2SIDA media poll, slotted at No. 24. The Eagles are the only GLIAC program listed in either poll, though they are joined by several teams in the loaded Midwest Region in the NABC rankings, including Bellarmine (No. 1), Findlay (No. 14), Indianapolis (RV) and Lewis (RV).
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles played just one game last week after final exams and turned in a complete performance with an 86-55 dismantling of Lawrence Tech. Ashland used a 14-2 run early in the first half to build a 16-5 lead. They took a 40-26 lead into halftime and led by more than 20 points for most of the second half.
DEFENSE, DEFENSE: For the fifth time this season, the Eagles held an opponent under 40 percent shooting in their win over Lawrence Tech. The Blue Devils hit just 33 percent (9-27) of their shots in the first half as they connected on 39 percent (21-54) overall. Ashland has out-shot (by percentage) all nine of its opponents this season. The Eagles rank third in the GLIAC and 37th nationally in opponent's field goal percentage at 40.6.
NO THREES: The Eagles have continued their trend of guarding the 3-point line better than anyone in the conference. Ashland is holding opponents under 30 percent from long distance for the season and they allow just 6.4 3-pointers per game. Lawrence Tech shot 8-22 (36 percent) from 3-point range in one of the better days an opponent has had against the Eagles from that distance.
NO FOULS: Key to the Eagles' defense has been their ability to guard without fouling. It is one thing to hold teams to a low field goal percentage, but it is more impressive considering the Eagles allow just 12 free throw attempts per game. Ashland commits the second-fewest fouls in the GLIAC – just 118 over the season – and the 15th-fewest mark in Division II.
SERIES VS. KCU: The Eagles and Knights are playing for the first time in the programs' histories.
SERIES VS. WESTMINSTER: The Eagles welcome back the Titans for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the final of two seasons Westminster spent in the GLIAC as a member of NCAA Division II. Westminster, located in New Wilmington, Pa., is a member of NCAA Division III. The Titans have a 4-3 edge over the Eagles all-time. The Eagles won both matchups in one-possession games in the 1999-2000 season and split two games the season prior. The teams' first meeting came on Feb. 6, 1940 with Westminster picking up a 62-46 win in Pennsylvania.
R.C. THE POINT: Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell, a transfer from Division I Bowling Green, has excelled in the early portion of his Ashland career. The Dayton, Ohio native is the only AU player to have scored in double figures in each game and leads the team with 17.8 points per game – a mark that ranks fourth in the GLIAC. In his last five games, Caldwell is shooting 56.4 percent (22-39) from 3-point range. He is tied for third in the GLIAC in 3-pointers (28) and is shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range.
CONSISTENT HARAWAY: The Eagles are getting consistent production from their starting off-guard, senior Ben Haraway, who has scored between 11 and 18 points in each of the last six games, all while shooting 53.8 percent (35-65) from the floor. He also has committed just 10 turnovers in 311 minutes for the season.
LEADING REBOUNDER: Redshirt-sophomore wing Aaron Thompson leads the GLIAC in rebounding with a mark of 9.3 per game. He also sits 10th in the country with 7.7 defensive rebounds per game in what has become his breakout season. The Toledo, Ohio native is shooting 60 percent (36-60) from the field and averaging 10.3 points per game.
SIXTH MAN: Senior forward Phil Frentsos has continued his strong season on Saturday by scoring a career-high 14 points in just 17 minutes off the bench against the Blue Devils. He shot 6-7 from the field and also had three rebounds and three steals. He is averaging 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 59.1 percent from the field on the season.
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.