Swarming Defense Lifts No. 10 Eagles To 12th Straight Win

Swarming Defense Lifts No. 10 Eagles To 12th Straight Win

The 10th-ranked Ashland University men's basketball team stifled visiting Michigan Tech on the defensive end as the Eagles trounced the Huskies, 67-44, on Thursday (Jan. 3) night at Kates Gymnasium.

The 44 points allowed are the fewest the Eagles have given up in a GLIAC game in program history. They allowed 40 points to West Virginia Wesleyan on Dec. 18, 2017.

The Eagles (12-0, 5-0 GLIAC) stayed undefeated and have now won 12 straight to start the season as it nears the midway point.

Thursday's game was in the balance when Dawson Bilksi hit a 3-pointer with 8:06 remaining before halftime to cut the Huskies' deficit to 23-19. That was the last point Michigan Tech scored until Jake Witt split a pair of free throws with 17:38 remained in the second half – ending a stretch of more than 10 minutes without scoring a point.

By then, the Eagles' lead had ballooned to 46-20 and it never went under 19 the rest of the game.

"Our guys did a great job," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "I can't commend our big guys enough on shutting down their big guys. Michigan Tech always has huge players who are monsters inside and I thought Drew (Noble), Derek (Koch), Aaron Thompson and Phil Frentsos were really focused on not giving them easy catches, not giving them easy shots."

The Huskies and Eagles came into the game as the top two defenses in the GLIAC, respectively.

"We knew going in they had the No. 1 defense, and we want to have the No. 1 defense, so we tried to make a statement that we're the best defense in the conference," said junior center Drew Noble.

It was an all-time defensive performance from a team that has a reputation for giving their best effort on that end of the floor each night. The Eagles forced the Huskies to shoot just 23.3 percent (7-for-30) from the field in the first half and 30.8 percent (16-for-52) for the game.

Ashland also committed just eight fouls in the game and the Huskies attempted only eight free throws. The Eagles also dominated the glass by a 41-30 count and did not give up any second chance points. AU also had a 38-14 edge on points in the paint.

Noble was the centerpiece on both ends of the floor, controlling the paint on the defensive end and earning bucket after bucket on offensively. He finished with 19 points and went 7-for-8 from the line.

"There's nothing better than GLIAC basketball in January and February, it's such a competitive, great league," Noble said. "You're going to play against a lot of great players and great teams. There's nothing better."

Senior guard Ben Haraway finished with 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals, while Koch added 12 points, three boards and two blocks. Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell scored 13 points and redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson had four points and 11 rebounds.

Bilski led the Huskies with 15 points, but was the only visiting player to score more than seven. The Eagles held Michigan Tech's leading scorer, Bryan Heath, to just two points – 12 below his season average.

The Eagles will look for their 13th straight win on Saturday (Jan. 5) at 3 p.m. when Northern Michigan visits Kates Gymnasium. The Wildcats (8-4, 3-2 GLIAC) are coming off a 73-51 defeat at Wayne State on Thursday.