THE TURNING POINT: Leading 15-7 after the first seven minutes of the game, Ashland went on a 22-10 run to lead by 20 points.
STAT OF THE GAME: Senior guard Boo Osborne scored 25 points, and for the second time in the last five games, missed just one shot from the field.
After needing some time to regroup and figure out how to play without its top player, Ashland University's men's basketball team ultimately has punched its ticket back to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Eagles won for the ninth time in 11 games on Thursday (Feb. 16) night, defeating Walsh, 78-69, to qualify for the GLIAC Tournament for the third year in a row. Ashland is 16-8 overall and 11-7 in the GLIAC, while the Cavaliers are 15-10, 8-10.
In the race for a potential GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal home game, Ashland moved up one spot from No. 7 to No. 6 in the league standings with two regular-season games to play. The top four teams in the conference, regardless of division, host quarterfinal games on Feb. 28.
Senior guard Boo Osborne regained his lights-out offensive form on Thursday, while simultaneously playing clamp-down defense on the GLIAC's leading scorer, Walsh senior guard Zac Carter.
Osborne scored a game-high-tying 25 points on 9-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Carter scored 11 points, his second-lowest total of the season.
"I thought Boo did a great job defensively," said Ashland head coach John Ellenwood. "Boo's a great defender. He takes pride in that stuff. Zac Carter's a great player, and Boo just loves playing against great players. It was a heck of a game that he had."
Also on Thursday, Osborne moved into 24th place on Ashland's all-time scoring list with 1,049 career points.
"It's good when you keep your man under his average," Osborne said. "He's a big focal point of their team. Everything goes through him, and I just tried to deny him the ball."
Senior guard Adrian Cook added 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and freshman center Drew Noble had his second straight solid game with 12 points and four boards in 19 minutes off the bench.
Cook now has 993 career points, seven away from becoming the 26th player in program history to score 1,000 in a career.
Ashland hit 52.7 percent from the field and 9-of-16 from 3-point range, while keeping the Cavaliers to 36.4 percent and 28.0 percent, respectively. The Eagles also had 17 assists to just 11 turnovers.
"I think we did a good job moving that basketball, especially in the first half," Ellenwood said. "Assists come from ball movement and cutting and screening. When you do that stuff hard, you find assists and you find open guys."
For Walsh, senior forward Trey Fletcher led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds.
The Eagles led 15-7 after the game's first seven minutes, then went on a 22-10 run, jumpstarted by consecutive triples from sophomores Phil Frentsos and Nick Bapst and senior Torin Wetzel (two). An impressive Ashland first half ended with a 50-25 lead, and with it hitting 61.3 percent from the field, nailing 9-of-12 from beyond the arc and keeping the Cavaliers to 29.4-percent shooting from the floor.
In the second half, Walsh chipped away and chipped away at its deficit, getting it to nine points at 60-51 with 10:40 to go, then to nine again at 73-64 with two minutes to go. Ashland, however, was able to keep the Cavaliers at arm's length to preserve the victory.
UP NEXT: Saturday (Feb. 18) at 3 p.m. at Findlay (20-5, 14-4).