The No. 10-ranked Ashland University men's basketball team will get its first GLIAC tests of the season, traveling to Lake Superior State and No. 23 Ferris State.
#10 Ashland (6-0, 0-0 GLIAC) at #23 Ferris State (10-1, 0-0 GLIAC)
Saturday, Dec. 7, 5:30 p.m.
Jim Wink Arena
GLIAC TIME: The Ashland University men's basketball team will start GLIAC play this week as the Eagles look to stay undefeated on the season. That will not be an easy task as they trek north to face Lake Superior State on Thursday before a top 25 showdown with No. 25 Ferris State on Saturday. Both games should test the Eagles as they start the grind that is the annual double round robin trek through the GLIAC.
TOURNEY CHAMPS: The Eagles got a small taste of postseason feel last week when they won the 36th Annual Gary Miller Classic, hosted by Gannon in Erie, Pa. Ashland beat Le Moyne, an NCAA Tournament team the last three years, by an 87-77 score, then hung on to beat host Gannon, 81-76, on Saturday in the championship game. Ashland also won that event in the 2015-16 season when it qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles brought home a trophy for their efforts and gained experience playing in a tough road environment.
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: If fans followed the tournament, it was no surprise to see senior center Drew Noble named the Gary Miller Classic Most Outstanding Player. He turned in a pair of 20-plus point scoring efforts and displayed his normal efficiency from the field. Noble averaged 24.5 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 assists and one block in the two games while shooting 56 percent (14-for-25) overall.
A NOBLE EAGLE: Opposing teams have had to deal with Noble as an all-conference level player for three years, but still the senior continues to improve each season. This season, he has elevated his game further, ranking third in the GLIAC in scoring at 19.8 points per game. He is also shooting 59.7 percent (40-67) from the field and averaging three assists per game as the Eagles run their offense through the post with Noble. He was an NABC All-Midwest District first team selection last season and was picked by the coaches as the GLIAC Preseason Player of the Year.
ALL-TOURNAMENT KOCH: Junior forward Derek Koch also turned in an impressive performance last week and was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts. He averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Koch also shot 60 percent (12-for-20) from the field and 56 percent (5-for-9) from the 3-point line. He ranks fifth in the GLIAC in 3-point accuracy, hitting at a 55 percent clip (12-for-22) and is already halfway to his total number of 3-point field goals from last season. The West Salem, Ohio native is averaging 12.8 points per game, but more importantly, is shooting 56 percent (23-for-41) overall.
CALDWELL'S EFFORTS: Senior guard Rodrick Caldwell, in his second season with the Eagles, made a significant impact in last week's tournament wins, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He shot 50 percent (13-for-26) from the floor and made a pair of clutch baskets after Gannon had trimmed its deficit down to four points. He converted a fastbreak layup after a steal, then splashed a 3-pointer with 5:28 to play to push the Eagles' lead back to nine, 72-63.
CLUTCH FREE THROWS: The Eagles entered last week as one of the GLIAC's bottom free throw shooting teams, hitting at just a 70 percent clip. They made up for that against the Golden Knights, shooting 85 percent (17-for-20) in the game. Ashland also went 10-for-12 from the line in the last two minutes as Gannon managed to trim it down to a two-point game. Noble hit two crucial freebies with nine seconds remaining to make it a two-score game, then split a pair with the game all but decided with 1.1 seconds left.
BEST IN THE NATION: Freshman guard Ethan Conley has made an immediate impact on the offensive end for the Eagles as he has received his first taste of college ball. Conley leads all of Division II in 3-point shooting at 75 percent (18-for-24) and ranks second in the GLIAC in field goal percentage (72.4). He scored 12 points and went 4-for-4 from long distance in the 81-76 win over Gannon, playing just 22 minutes off the bench. For the season, Conley has scored 70 points on just 29 total field goal attempts (2.4 points per field goal attempt).
ALSO BEST IN THE NATION: With Conley's prowess and the help of several others, the Eagles are the top 3-point shooting team in the country at 47.7 percent. They are making 10.2 3-pointers per game. Not only do they have Conley and Koch shooting at a high rate, but the Eagles also have Caldwell shooting 41 percent (13-for-32), redshirt-freshman forward Bryce Drews shooting 41 percent (7-for-17) and freshman guard Brandon Haraway hitting at a 43 percent (3-for-7) clip.
A.T.'S PROWESS: Redshirt-junior Aaron Thompson, who led the GLIAC in rebounding last year despite playing on the wing, is off to a stellar start this season. He scored a season-high 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the Eagles' 87-77 win over Le Moyne. He shot 9-for-12 in the game and is shooting 59 percent (30-for-51) on the season. Thompson leads the Eagles and is tied for sixth in the GLIAC with 7.5 rebounds per game.
SERIES VS. LAKERS: The Eagles are 13-16 all-time against Lake Superior State and have won four of the last six matchups. The teams split their series last season with each team winning on its home floor. Ashland claimed an 82-68 win last Nov. 29, but fell to LSSU on Feb. 9 in Sault Ste. Marie, 77-66. The Eagles last won at Lake Superior State on Feb. 28, 2017 in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal, 84-81.
SERIES VS. BULLDOGS: Ashland is 10-24 all-time against Ferris State, but beat the Bulldogs in both matchups last season. The Eagles claimed a narrow 91-88 win over the 'Dogs last Dec. 1 at Kates Gymnasium, then beat the Bulldogs, 67-56, in the NCAA Division II Showcase game on ESPN3 on Feb. 7 at Jim Wink Arena.