The Ashland University men's basketball team, ranked No. 7 in Division II, treks to Detroit for a GLIAC South matchup with rival Wayne State on Saturday.
LAST HALF: The Eagles officially begin the second half of their GLIAC schedule on Saturday when they square off with Wayne State at the Matthaei Center in Detroit. The Warriors are the last opponent the Eagles are playing for the first time this season. After this, Ashland will make its second swing through the conference schedule.
TWO-GAME LEAD: Ashland, with a 9-1 record in the GLIAC, have a two-game lead in the conference standings over Davenport. Three schools – Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Parkside – sit three games back at 6-4. The top four teams in the GLIAC standings will host a GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal, while the top remaining seed will host the GLIAC Final Four.
FOUR STRAIGHT WEEKS: The Eagles are in the top 10 of the NABC Division II coaches' poll for the fourth straight time. This week, they climbed one spot to No. 7 as the only GLIAC team listed in the poll. Ashland was in the top 10 of the poll seven straight weeks in the 1990-91 season, including four weeks at No. 1. The Eagles were also in the top 10 of the poll each week from 1968-71.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles have played three games in the last week, beating Saginaw Valley (83-61), Northwood (75-60) and Ohio-Chillicothe (80-48). The Eagles have now won four straight games to bounce back from their first loss of the season at Parkside on Jan. 10.
BEN GLIAC SOUTH POTW: Redshirt-senior guard Ben Haraway was named the GLIAC South Player of the Week for the first time in his career for his performances against the Cardinals and Timberwolves. Haraway averaged 15 points, six rebounds and four assists in the two games, scoring a team-high 17 points in the win over Saginaw Valley. He became the third AU player to win the award this season after redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson and junior guard Rodrick Caldwell won in back-to-back weeks in December.
TOP DEFENSE: The Eagles continued their dominance on the defensive end of the floor last week, holding their three opponents to an average of just 56.3 points on just 37.4 percent (65-174) shooting. Ashland ranks as the top team in the GLIAC in scoring defense (60.4), opponent field goal percentage (.387) and 3-point defense (.289). They rank second, fifth and third in the nation in those categories, respectively. Ashland has also committed the second-fewest number of fouls in the nation among teams that have played at least 16 games. Teams are averaging just 12.1 free throw attempts per game. Meanwhile, Ashland takes 18.4 free throw attempts per game.
NO GOOD LOOKS: Not only do teams shoot under 30 percent from 3-point range against the Eagles, but they also make just 6.1 per game. In this era of basketball where scoring is on the rise, the Eagles are trying to drive their opponents downward. The mid-range jumpshot is the least efficient in basketball, but the Eagles force their opponents to beat them from those spots – 18 feet from the basket.
CLEAN IT UP: As opponent offenses are left scattered, their missed shots are falling into the hands of waiting Eagles. Ashland ranks seventh in Division II in rebounding margin, beating teams on the glass by 9.3 boards per game. Only twice this season have the Eagles been out-rebounded.
GLIAC LEADER: The Eagles' top rebounder this season is also the GLIAC's best as Thompson has raked in 9.4 rebounds per game – a figure that ranks 25th in the country. Thompson's rebounding mark would be Ashland's best since former All-American Evan Yates collected 11.3 boards per game in the 2011-12 season. It would be just the 11th time since 1966-67 that an AU player averaged at least nine rebounds in a game.
BENCH UNIT: Head coach John Ellenwood was able to get quality minutes to his bench unit in Tuesday's win over Ohio-Chillicothe as he looks to build depth in that squad with the regular season coming down the home stretch. The reserves scored 28 points against the Hilltoppers, led by senior forward Phil Frentsos, who scored 10 points and had four steals. Freshman forward Jake McLoughlin collected 12 rebounds and freshman guard Dylan Beaugard matched a career-high with five assists. The Eagles also got multiple baskets from senior forward John Brady and sophomore guard Peyton Bennington. The AU bench has outscored its opponents just four times this season, but did it twice last week.
VALUED POSSESSIONS: In their 83-61 win over Saginaw Valley last Thursday, the Eagles committed just two turnovers, including one in the final minute of the game. Ashland also booked 16 assists on 31 field goals. Saginaw Valley did not have any steals or block any shots. The Eagles are third in the GLIAC in turnover margin (1.4), but lead the conference and rank 20th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.45).
SERIES VS. WARRIORS: The Eagles are 25-31 all-time against the Warriors as the teams' series goes back to Ashland's second all-time season (1921-22). The teams split two games last season with each winning on their home floor. Wayne State won in Detroit, 69-60, on Feb. 1 while the Eagles claimed a 70-48 win on Dec. 7 at Kates Gymnasium. Ashland's last road win in the series came on Jan. 23, 2016 by a 68-61 count. The Eagles have won six of their last eight in the series. Ellenwood is 7-8 all-time against the Warriors.
NOBLE'S SEASON: Junior center Drew Noble continued his excellent season last week by pouring in 25 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists in the Eagles' win over SVSU. Noble also had three blocks and three steals against Northwood and scored 14 points in just 20 minutes against Ohio-Chillicothe. He leads the team and ranks seventh in the GLIAC in scoring (16.9). He also ranks third in the league in field goals (111) and is fourth in free throws (78). On Jan. 15, he was named to the Bevo Francis Award Watch List. The award goes to the player with the finest overall season in small college basketball.
FAITH DAY – FEB. 2: The AU athletic department will hold Faith Day during and following the basketball doubleheader against Grand Valley State on Saturday, Feb. 2. Student-athletes will offer their personal testimonies during halftime of each game, and 20 minutes following the men's game, a Faith Day presentation will include worship music and additional testimonies from AU student-athletes and coaches.