The Ashland University men's basketball team, undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the nation, travel to Parkside and Purdue Northwest for a pair of cross-divisional GLIAC tilts.
HITTING THE ROAD: The Eagles will embark on their first road trip of 2019 when they travel to GLIAC newcomer Wisconsin-Parkside and second-year GLIAC program Purdue Northwest this week. These will mark just the third and fourth road games for the Eagles since the season opener on Nov. 9 at Lake Erie. It hasn't much mattered where the Eagles play this season as they sit undefeated with 10 wins at home and three on the road.
13 IN A ROW: The Eagles have started the season with 13 straight wins – the second-best mark in school history. Ashland can match the program record of 15-0 (1990-91) this weekend with a pair of wins. The Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season and are looking for their second NCAA postseason berth under head coach John Ellenwood.
ONE OF 13: The Eagles are just one of 13 men's NCAA teams across the country – regardless of division – to be undefeated at this point of the season. There are three unbeaten teams at the Division I level, six at Division II and four at Division III. Bellarmine (12-0) joins Ashland as the only other team in the NCAA Division II Midwest Region among the unbeaten. No other teams in the region have fewer than even two losses.
THE CLIMB TO 6: In the latest release of the NABC Division II coaches' poll, the Eagles climbed four spots to No. 6 in the nation. It is the highest ranking for the AU men's program since Feb. 18, 1991 when it was ranked at No. 3. The Eagles have been ranked in the Top 10 51 times in program history.
SWEET 67: The Eagles scored 67 points in both their games last week as they swept visiting Michigan Tech (67-44) and Northern Michigan (67-60) at Kates Gymnasium. Ashland held those teams to a combined 35 field goals and just eight 3-pointers in the two games.
PROGRAM RECORD: The 44 points the Eagles allowed to Michigan Tech were the fewest given up in program history in a GLIAC game. The Eagles allowed 40 points to West Virginia Wesleyan last season in nonconference action, which was the fewest allowed by Ashland in the shot clock era.
LOCK DOWN: The Eagles have been excellent on the defensive end all season and now rank second in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 61.1 points per game. They also have allowed teams to shoot just 38.5 percent from the floor, which is the fifth-best mark in Division II.
CLEANING UP: While forcing opponent misses is important, snagging those misses is equally important. The Eagles have made rebounding a priority and they rank 11th in the country in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by 9.5 per game. The Eagles held a 41-30 edge in the glass agianst Michigan Tech and led the Wildcats in rebounds, 38-21. AU has won the rebounding battle in 11 of 13 games this season.
ONE SHOT ONLY: In two games against MTU and NMU, the Eagles allowed an astounding number of second-chance points: two. Those came against the Wildcats on Saturday. Otherwise, the Eagles allowed just nine offensive rebounds last week and led in second-chance points, 26-2.
A.T. ON THE GLASS: In recent games, redshirt-sophomore wing Aaron Thompson has posted statistical lines that resemble those of former NBA forwards Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman – loaded rebounding totals, along with strong defense and necessary offense. The difference is that Thompson is a guard. The 6-foot-3 Toledo, Ohio product averaged 13.5 rebounds and 4.5 points last week. He hit a key 3-pointer early in the second half against NMU that broke a 29-29 tie and pulled the Wildcats out of their zone defense. He also corraled a career-high 16 rebounds in that game.
POST NOBILITY: Junior center Drew Noble has been a workhorse as the Eagles' pivot man in the post this season. That was prevalent in Saturday's win over Northern Michigan as he took over in the second half, scoring 19 of his team-high 26 points. He was 8-12 from the field after halftime and finished a rebound shy of a double-double. Noble ranks fourth in the GLIAC in scoring (17.1) and eighth in rebounding (6.6).
BEN'S BREAKOUT: Fifth-year senior guard Ben Haraway, who has scored at least eight points in every game this season, had a season-high 23 points in Saturday's win over Northern Michigan. He established a career high with six 3-pointers, going 6-8 from long distance and getting the offense going in the first half with back-to-back triples to pull the Wildcats out of their zone. Prior to his two 3-pointers, NMU had a 17-7 lead 12 minutes into the game. Haraway is Ashland's third-leading scorer (13.5) and is shooting 45.2 percent (19-42) from 3-point range.
FORCING MISSES: On Saturday against Northern Michigan, Haraway also drew the first straw against Preseason GLIAC Player of the Year, Naba Echols. Haraway held Echols to just four points on 1-8 shooting and one assist in the first half. Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell and senior forward Phil Frentsos also spent time on Echols in the second half and he finished the game with 11 points on 3-16 shooting while going 0-6 from 3-point range. In Ashland's wild comeback win in the GLIAC Tournament last season, they held Echols to 1-12 shooting in the second half and overtime after scoring 19 points in the first half.
SERIES VS. RANGERS: This will be the first meeting between the Eagles and Rangers, a former member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference and first-year member of the GLIAC. Parkside qualified for the NCAA Tournament five straight years from 2013-17, hosting the event in 2016 as the No. 1 seed when Ashland was the No. 3 seed.
SERIES VS. PRIDE: The Eagles and Pride have a short history together with Ashland holding the all-time advantage, 2-0. In Purdue Northwest's first season in the GLIAC last year, the Eagles toppled the Pride, 78-66, at Kates Gymnasium before throttling PNW by a 95-52 margin in Hammond, Ind. The margin of victory was the Eagles' highest under Ellenwood until AU's 110-56 win over Kentucky Christian on Dec. 19.
DEFENSE, WITHOUT FOULING: Among teams that have played at least 10 games, the Eagles rank 10th in the nation in fewest fouls committed (165; 12.7 per game) – an astonishingly low figure for a team that plays in the grinding GLIAC. Ashland gives up just 12.3 free throw attempts per game, and allowed Michigan Tech to take just eight free throws last Thursday.
TWIN TOWERS: Joining Noble on the front line has been sophomore forward Derek Koch, who transfered from Bowling Green State with Caldwell last summer. He posted 12 points on 6-9 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks in the 67-44 win over Michigan Tech and is averaging 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds this season.