It will be a contest between two well-rested men's basketball teams on Friday (Dec. 30) night at Kates Gymnasium.
Ashland University's men will have had 11 days between games when they play host to Division III Thiel on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Eagles are 6-5 overall as they return to "The Kates" to take on the 6-2 Tomcats, who also will be well-rested. Thiel hasn't played a game since a 79-76 double-overtime win on Dec. 10 at Geneva College.
The Eagles' next-to-last non-conference regular-season game of 2016-17 will provide an opportunity for a restart to a back-and-forth season. Following a 6-1 beginning to 2016-17, Ashland has lost four straight games – all in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play against teams with a cumulative record of 35-10, and three of those were by seven points or less.
"We don't want to have a five-game one, so it was good to get away and re-think things," said Ashland head coach John Ellenwood. "The last couple games, we've played some good teams in the North. A couple possessions here or there…basically, Ferris State was a close game to the end, (and) Grand Valley, both games, we had a lead in the second half.
"Ferris State, they killed us on the boards. Second-half defense wasn't good against them. Grand Valley, we got out-seniored. We've got to make adjustments to get things back on track."
Ashland enters Friday night's game having won 27 consecutive non-conference regular-season home games.
The Eagles' most consistent offensive player to date has been senior guard Adrian Cook, who averages 13.5 points per game while shooting 57.0 percent from the floor, 52.9 percent from 3-point range and 81.8 percent from the free-throw line. Cook also goes for 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Ashland is seventh in the GLIAC at 15.0 assists per game, nearly three more per game than in 2015-16, but Ellenwood is looking for more.
"We need to move the ball better," he said. "He (Cook) is becoming a go-to guy for us, but we need to move the ball better. We need to share the ball a lot more. We've been scoring pretty good (73.8 ppg.). We just gave up too many points. Sharing the basketball, that's what the key to this year is."
Thiel is the highest-scoring offensive team in the Presidents' Athletic Conference at 82.4 points per game. The Tomcats also have the PAC's best scoring margin per game at 12.2, and the league's best field-goal percentage defense at 37.0.
The Tomcats boast four double-digit scorers so far in 2016-17 in junior guard Tyreik Burton (18.6 ppg.), junior forward Josh Lumbus (13.6), junior forward Avril Campbell (11.3) and sophomore guard Alonzo Brown (10.5).
"Thiel, they're having a good year," said Ellenwood. "They seem like they want to have 100 possessions a game. It allows us to work on the things we need to change before we get back into conference play. We're going to have to make those adjustments and see how they work."
Friday's game is the start of a five-game homestand for the Eagles, who are 2-4 in the GLIAC. They return to GLIAC play on Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. against Michigan Tech (5-6, 3-2), and Jan. 7 at 3 p.m. vs. Northern Michigan (3-7, 1-4).