The Ashland University men's basketball team held Le Moyne to just two field goals in a key seven-minute stretch late in the Eagles' 87-77 win on Friday (Nov. 29) night in the opening game of Gannon University's Gary Miller Classic in Erie, Pa.
The Eagles (5-0), ranked No. 11 in the nation, made the crucial plays down the stretch as they knocked off the Dolphins (3-4), who have qualified for the last three NCAA Tournaments.
Ashland will now play in the Gary Miller Classic title game on Saturday (Nov. 30) at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of tonight's game between Gannon and Alderson Broaddus.
On Friday, the Eagles and Dolphins were locked in a close game for nearly the entirety of the second half with neither leading by more than seven points until the Eagles went on their late run.
Ashland clung to a 65-64 lead with just over eight minutes left to play when they locked down on the defensive end. AU stopped the Dolphins on six straight possessions and got a key three-point play by junior forward Derek Koch in that stretch as the Eagles turned that one-point lead into a nine-point advantage, 73-64, with just under five minutes to play.
The Eagles held their edge, then went 10-for-12 from the free throw line over the last two minutes to secure the victory.
Ashland had three players score at least 20 points, led by senior center Drew Noble, who continued his excellent start to the season with 27 points and seven rebounds. He was 8-for-13 from the field and 10-for-15 from the line.
As a team, the Eagles lived at the line, drawing 25 fouls in the game and shooting 25-for-33 from the stripe.
Redshirt-junior wing Aaron Thompson finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds for his 14th career double-double.
Senior guard Rodrick Caldwell scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half and also added four assists. Koch chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Eagles trailed by as many eight early in the game, 14-6, and did not regain the lead until Caldwell's 3-pointer off an assist by sophomore guard Dylan Beaugard made it 26-24 with 3:35 left in the first half.
Both teams closed the half with a scoring flurry as Caldwell sandwiched a couple jumpers around Tom Brown's 3-pointer with a minute to play. Noble's trey gave the Eagles a 40-36 lead at the break.
The teams traded the lead multiple times in the second half until Ashland's late spurt.
Brown led the Dolphins with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Eagles held Le Moyne to just 43 percent (28-for-65) shooting from the floor, including a 22 percent (6-for-27) mark from 3-point range.
Ashland won the battle on the glass, 39-37.