The Ashland University men's basketball team bounced back from two tough losses last week by smothering defending national champion Ferris State in a 67-56 win over the Bulldogs on Thursday (Feb. 7) night at Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. The game was aired on ESPN3 as part of the NCAA Division II Basketball Showcase.
The 15th-ranked Eagles (19-3, 11-3 GLIAC) forced the Bulldogs (16-9, 8-6 GLIAC) to shoot just 33 percent from the field and held the hosts to their lowest scoring output since the Eagles beat them, 57-51, on Dec. 5, 2015. Ferris State came into the game averaging 88 points per game, while AU came in with the third-best scoring defense in the country.
The win was the 200th in the career of AU head coach John Ellenwood, who has won 167 games with the Eagles. His first 33 wins came with Thomas More College.
The Eagles swept the season series against Ferris State after winning, 91-88, on Dec. 1.
Markese Mayfield scored the first eight points of the game for the Bulldogs as they came out with an 8-6 lead.
Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell, who came off the bench for the first time this season, made a layup off a feed from junior center Drew Noble before Noble threw lob alley-oop for senior forward Phil Frentsos to give the Eagles a 10-8 advantage and force an FSU timeout.
The teams traded blows for a few minutes, but sophomore forward Derek Koch gave the Eagles the lead for good, 16-15, with 13:54 left in the first half on a put-back.
Koch was key for the Eagles in the first half, scoring 12 points, including two 3-pointers to help stretch the Ferris State defense. He finished with 15 points and three triples in the game.
The Eagles took a 41-33 lead into halftime as they were able to calmly handle the Ferris State full-court press.
In the second half, Ferris State was able to make a run using a 2-3 zone to throw the AU offense out of rhythm.
The Bulldogs had the margin cut down to 50-47 with nine minutes left before redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson made a layup to push it back to two possessions.
Then the Eagles got two straight defensive stops and Caldwell buried two 3-pointers, extending the Eagles' lead back to double digits, 58-47, with seven minutes remaining.
Ferris State worked it back to 58-53, but Noble sank a 3-pointer, playing with Koch in an inside-out set to make it 61-53.
After a stop, senior guard Ben Haraway sank two free throws and the Eagles were able to bleed the clock from there.
Thompson was outstanding on both ends for Ashland, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds – one shy of a career-high – for his sixth double-double of the season. Koch had 15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while Noble added 14 points, three boards and four assists.
Caldwell scored 12 points off the bench and Frentsos had six points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Dylan Beaugard provided 15 quality minutes with three assists.
Mayfield was the only Ferris State player in double figures with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Ashland held Ferris State's leading scorer DeShaun Thrower to just five points – 11 below his season average.
The Eagles will look to sweep their GLIAC road trip on Saturday (Feb. 9) at Lake Superior State. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.