The Ashland University men's basketball team will look to stop its three-game slide this weekend against Lourdes and Penn State Shenango.
PRE-CHRISTMAS CONTESTS: The Ashland University men's basketball team will put the wraps on the 2019 calendar year with a pair of games at Kates Gymnasium against non-conference opponents Lourdes and Penn State Shenango. The games will take the Eagles into their mandatory NCAA Division II dead period which requires seven days off from practice and competition.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles dropped a tight game to visiting Wayne State last Saturday after final exams, 69-64. The game was close throughout with neither team leading by more than seven at any point. The Eagles had a four-point lead with 13 minutes left after a basket by senior guard Rodrick Caldwell, but Ashland went the next 12 minutes without a field goal. AU stayed in the game by living at the line and had the game tied at 64 with a three-point play by senior center Drew Noble with just under a minute to play. The Warriors followed with their own three-point play, however, and they held the Eagles scoreless over the duration.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Noble put in a bruising effort in the game on Saturday on his way to 20 points, five rebounds and two assists. The 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio native drew eight fouls in the game as he consistently drew bodies to him on catches in the paint. Noble was 8-for-12 at the free throw line and leads the league in free throw makes with 56. That figure ranks 21st in the nation. Noble has scored at least 20 points in four games this season and is fourth in the league in scoring.
100TH GAME: Noble has been one of the most consistent performers in recent years for the men's basketball program. On Sunday, he will play in his 100th career game, never missing a game in his four-year career. That is quite remarkable considering his size and the physical toll he bears in the post on a weekly basis. Noble will also make his 70th and 71st starts this weekend. Ashland's all-time leader in games played is Noble's former teammate and 2019 grad Phil Frentsos, who played in 119 contests.
ON THE GLASS: Redshirt-junior wing Aaron Thompson, who led the GLIAC in rebounding last season, was back at it again on Saturday, collecting a game-high 11 rebounds in the defeat. Thompson, a Toledo native, leads the Eagles on the glass this season at 7.4 per game, helping Ashland rank second in the GLIAC in rebounding margin (+5.8). He has recorded at least 10 rebounds in a game 21 times in his career. On Saturday, he also had four points, two steals and a block. Thompson was named to the All-GLIAC second team and the GLIAC All-Defensive Team last season.
CONLEY BEHIND THE ARC: Freshman guard Ethan Conley, as he has all season, leads the GLIAC in 3-point shooting, knocking them down at a 61 percent (22-36) clip. He has made at least one 3-pointer in eight of nine games this season, including a season-high five triples on six attempts against Ohio Chillicothe on Nov. 19. He was also 4-for-4 in an 81-76 win at Gannon on Nov. 30. Conley is averaging 9.2 points per game.
HARAWAY AT THE LINE: In his brief nine-game career as an Eagle, freshman guard Brandon Haraway has shown a knack for getting to the line, and when gets there, knocking down his free throws. He is third on the team with 36 attempts and is hitting at an 89 percent (32-36) clip. Haraway is averaging 7.9 points per game.
ROD AT THE POINT: Senior guard Rodrick Caldwell ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game while also ranking second with 17 3-pointers. He also averages 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
SERIES VS. GRAY WOLVES: The Eagles hold a 2-1 all-time edge in the series against Lourdes, who enter the game as the 14th-ranked team in NAIA Division II. Ashland beat Lourdes twice in the 2010-11 season, but the Gray Wolves beat Ashland, 63-54, on Nov. 19, 2011 at the Ohio Dominican Classic in Columbus.
SERIES VS. LIONS: This is the first-ever meeting between the Eagles and Lions.
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 77 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.
ALUMNI WEEKEND: The Eagles will welcome back their alumni for a special weekend Jan. 23-25 to celebrate their 100th season. Ashland will play Northwood and Saginaw Valley at Kates Gymnasium with several festivities surrounding those dates, including the release of a mini-documentary with interviews of several former players, coaches and community members.
A BIT OF HISTORY: The men's basketball program got its start in 1920 under head coach Walter Leckrone as the Eagles went 5-3 in their inaugural campaign. The season opened on Dec. 16 with a 32-19 win over Kent State. Since then, the Eagles have won 1,221 games with 177 of those victories coming under 11th-year head coach John Ellenwood.