The AU men's basketball team will face a pair of tough opponents on its weekend trek to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
WELCOME TO 2018: The Eagles start the new year with their longest road trip of the season as they take on Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan on their bi-annual trek to the Upper Peninsula. Meanwhile the Huskies and Wildcats have a combined 9-1 record in GLIAC play and will present a tough road challenge for the Eagles, who are 1-2 in GLIAC play on the road so far this season.
WINNING WAYS: The Eagles are currently riding a five-game winning streak after taking an 82-53 decision against Thiel on Saturday in their final pre-GLIAC tune-up. Ashland's last winning streak of this length came Jan. 7-30, 2017 when they won seven straight GLIAC contests to run its record to 14-6 last season.
D-FENCE: The Eagles forced the Tomcats to shoot just 32.8 percent (20-61) from the field in their win last Saturday. Each of Ashland's opponents during its winning streak have shot less than 44 percent from the field and none have scored more than 65 points. During the winning streak, the Eagles have held opponents to just 52 points per game. That has helped the Eagles climb to eighth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 63.2 points per game over the entire season.
PHILOSOPHY CHANGE: "At the start of the year we had a different team and we said we're going to pressure a lot more and play passing lanes a lot more. When we got injured, we didn't have the depth for awhile. We were winning and we continued to play pressure defense, but we weren't that type of team. We were winning so we didn't want to make an adjustment. We went up north and got beat pretty bad by Ferris and we said we have to get back to who we are defensively from years past. We made a commitment to that and really started playing more pack-line. As a result we've actually gotten more steals and we've become a better rebounding and defensive team. Everybody made a commitment to that." - Head Coach John Ellenwood
SERIES VS. TECH: The Eagles are 10-17 all-time against Michigan Tech and the teams have traded wins in the last four contests with the Huskies winning at Kates Gymnasium last season, 80-71. Ben Haraway scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the game. Ashland has lost six straight games in Houghton with its last win coming on Dec. 3, 2005, 70-58. The last two games of the series were played in Ashland. AU lost on its last trip to SDC Gym, 79-69, on Jan. 10, 2015.
SERIES VS. 'CATS: The Eagles have fared much better against Northern Michigan lifetime. Overall, AU is 15-9 against the Wildcats and have won four straight games, including a 65-52 victory on their last game in Marquette on Jan. 8, 2015. AU defeated Northern Michigan, 67-48, last season in its best defensive showing of the season.
REIGNING POTW: Fifth-year senior Wendell Davis, who missed all of last season with an injury, has won four of the first six GLIAC South Player of the Week awards handed out by the conference this season. He won the last honor given on Dec. 21 and then posted an all-around terrific game last Saturday against Thiel with 23 points on just seven shots, to go with six rebounds and six assists in only 25 minutes. Davis was 10-for-10 from the line and sank three 3-pointers. He ranks in the top seven of six GLIAC statisticial categories, including scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, 3-point percentage, 3-point field goals and assists.
WENDELL IN TOP 5: Davis continues to stack his resume as one of the top players the AU program has ever seen. Before Christmas, he moved to fifth all-time on Ashland's scoring list, surpassing former All-American and current professional player Evan Yates, who graduated four years ago. Yates currently plays overseas for CB Clavijo in Spain. Davis needs 59 points to reach fourth all-time on the list and 187 to get to the No. 2 spot.
NOBLE DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Sophomore center Drew Noble recorded his fourth double-double of the season last Saturday with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes against Thiel. The 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio native shot 6-for-6 from the line and now has back-to-back double-doubles after collecting 15 points and 12 rebounds against West Virginia Wesleyan on Dec. 18. He currently ranks third in the GLIAC in rebounding (8.4) and ninth in scoring (14.0) while shooting 50 percent (72-145) from the field.
LIFT FROM THOMPSON: Redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson's role on the Eagles is to disrupt the opposing offense at the point of attack as he is typically given the responsibility of guarding the opponent's top perimeter player. He has handled that role excellently, leading the team with 20 steals and continously making opposing guards work hard for their shots. He also gave the Eagles a lift on the offensive end last Saturday, hitting all three of his field goal attempts and finishing with nine points, three rebounds and two steals. For the season, he is averaging 4.8 points and five rebounds per game.
FORWARD DISTRIBUTION: Between Davis and senior forward Marsalis Hamilton, the Eagles have quite the frontcourt capable of passing the ball. Both players average at least 3.8 assists per game, ranking in the top seven in the GLIAC. Hamilton had 10 assists in a win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Dec. 18 and had six points, four assists, four rebounds and three blocks in just 21 minutes of last week's win over Thiel.
KEEPAWAY: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway has now played two straight games (56 minutes) without committing a turnover. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds and two steals against Thiel. The transfer from Malone has just 21 turnovers in 13 games this season, despite leading the GLIAC in minutes played (439).
3-BALL: Ashland continued to rain 3-pointers in its win over Thiel, shooting 8-for-15 from beyond the arc. The Eagles lead the GLIAC in 3-pointers per game (8.9) and sit third in the league in 3-point accuracy (.389). Davis leads the GLIAC in triples (40), while redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn has added 23 on the season. Haraway, Noble and junior forward Phil Frentsos also have hit double-digit treys.
CRASH THE GLASS: With the eighth-best defense in the country, the Eagles also have to be able to secure defensive rebounds to end opponents' possessions. They rank second in the conference and 32nd nationally in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by 6.9 per game. Ashland has won the rebounding battle in 10 of its 13 games. In the other three, AU has been out-rebounded by just nine rebounds combined.