The Ashland University men's basketball team will play its GLIAC home opener on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against GLIAC South rival Wayne State.
BACK AT HOME: The Ashland University men's basketball team will finish the 2019 year with three straight games at Kates Gymnasium beginning Saturday night against GLIAC South rival Wayne State. It is the GLIAC home opener for the Eagles, who will complete the homestand next weekend with non-league games against Lourdes and Penn State Shenango.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles entered last week ranked No. 10 in the nation in the NABC Division II poll, but suffered through a tough road trip and dropping a pair of games at Lake Superior State and No. 23 Ferris State. In games that were fairly similar in the way they played out, the Eagles fell to the Lakers, 99-69, on Thursday before losing to the Bulldogs, 94-70, on Saturday. Both opponents shot the ball extremely well and put the Eagles in early deficits. LSSU and FSU combined for 30 3-pointers and shot 55 percent from beyond the arc.
3-POINT SHOOTING: The Eagles entered last week as the top 3-point shooting team in the nation, hitting at a 49 percent clip from long range. On the road last week, Ashland was not able to replicate that success, shooting 15 percent (8-52).
INTO THE OFFENSE: Despite struggling at both ends of the floor last week, Ashland still boasts the best shooting percentage (49.6) and the second-best scoring average (83.9 points per game) in the GLIAC.
BALANCING ACT: The Eagles' success offensively has come from their ability to share the wealth. They have assists on 52 percent (118-226) of their made field goals and have five players averaging at least 9.9 points per game.
OUR NOBLE LEADER: As was the case last season and during this preseason, the leader of the offense has been senior center Drew Noble, who ranks fifth in the GLIAC in scoring at 18.8 points per game while shooting 57.5 percent from the field. He averaged 15.5 points and six rebounds per game last week. Noble has led the Eagles in scoring four times this season and has scored in double figures in all eight of AU's games.
IRON MAN: Noble has never missed a game in his AU career, playing in all 97 thus far, making 68 starts. He has also averaged 31 minutes per game in the last three seasons, a remarkable figure for a player his size and considering the physicality of his position. He should play his 100th game on Dec. 22 – the final game of the calendar year. Former teammate Phil Frentsos, who gradutated after last season, is the program's all-time leader in games played at 119.
A.T. EFFICIENT: Redshirt-junior wing Aaron Thompson was the Eagles' top scorer last week, averaging 16 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent (14-24) from the field. He, along with Noble and freshman Ethan Conley, rank in the top eight in the GLIAC in field goal percentage overall. Thompson finished with a team-high 18 points on 8-12 shooting at LSSU, then had 14 points at Ferris State.
HARAWAY FINDING OFFENSE: Freshman guard Brandon Haraway scored in double figures in both games last week as he finds his role in the AU offense. Haraway scored a career-high 17 points against the Lakers, adding eight rebounds and three assists to his stat line. Haraway also scored 10 points and collected four rebounds against the Bulldogs. He ranks among the league leaders in free throw percentage (89.3) and is averaging 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
FLAME THROWER: Conley has also gotten off to a great start in his collegiate career, especially when it comes to his outside shooting. The freshman ranks second in the nation and leads the GLIAC in 3-point percentage (61.8). He was 3-10 last week from 3-point range. Conley is averaging 10 points in just 22.5 minutes per game off the AU bench.
SENIOR LEADER: Senior guard Rodrick Caldwell is a player the Eagles rely on to make big baskets late in games. It was a quick 5-0 run late against Gannon after Thanksgiving that helped push the Eagles past the Golden Knights. That added to a bevy of late shots he made last season as well as the Eagles made a run to the NCAA Tournament. He is averaging 13.4 points per game and is second on the team with 16 3-pointers.
SERIES VS. WARRIORS: The Warriors hold a 31-27 lead in the all-time series between the two programs. Ashland swept both contests last season, winning on a Ben Haraway jumper with a second left in Detroit before turning in a 70-63 win in the regular season finale. Head coach John Ellenwood is 9-8 all-time against the Warriors, who last won at Kates Gymnasium on Dec. 10, 2016.
HOME COOKING: The Eagles have excelled on their home court under Ellenwood. They have not lost more than three games at home since the 2013-14 season and have won 78 percent of the time on their home floor.
TOURNEY RETURN: The Eagles are looking to make a return to the NCAA Tournament in 2019-20 after earning the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region last year as the squad finished second overall in the GLIAC South with a 15-5 record in conference play. Ashland was 23-7 overall last season, the second-highest win total under Ellenwood. The only higher total was in 2015-16 when Ashland went 25-6 and qualified for its first NCAA postseason since 1991.
WAVE OF EXCELLENCE: The Eagles are in the midst of one of the best periods of success in program history, having won at least 19 games in their last five seasons. Ashland has averaged 21.2 wins per season in that stretch and advanced to the GLIAC Tournament semifinals three straight times from 2016-18. The only sustained period of success for the program that rivals the current one was the five-season stretch from 1966-71 when Ashland won at least 21 games each season under head coach Bill Musselman.
100 SEASONS: This season, the men's basketball program is celebrating 100 years at Ashland University. The Eagles are wearing a custom jersey patch to commemorate the occasion.