The AU men's basketball team takes its seven-game winning streak into this weekend's homestand against Grand Valley State and GLIAC newcomer Purdue Northwest.
BACK HOME: After one of its most impressive road trips in recent memory, the AU men's basketball team is back at Kates Gymnasium this week to play host to Grand Valley State and GLIAC newcomer Purdue Northwest. Those teams hold down the last two spots in the GLIAC North, while the Eagles sit tied atop the GLIAC South with Wayne State.
RARE FEAT: The Eagles are coming off a weekend trip in which they beat Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. It was the second time the Eagles have swept both the Huskes and Wildcats on the same road trip – the only other instance coming in 1999. MTU and NMU came into the week with a combined GLIAC record of 9-1.
WINNING STREAK: The Eagles have now won seven straight games for the first time since winning the same number from Jan. 7-30 last season. The last time Ashland won more than seven in a row came Jan. 23-March 1, 2016 when it won 12 straight games, the last being a GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal contest against Grand Valley State.
LOCKED IN: The Eagles continue to climb the national defensive scoring rankings as they have allowed just 62.5 points per game – the fourth-best figure in Division II. AU allowed 62 points to Michigan Tech last Thursday before giving up just 54 in a one-point win against the Wildcats. Ashland forced both teams to shoot under the 40 percent mark (Ashland is 7-0 this season when it forces teams under that line). In fact, AU's last four opponents have shot below 40 percent. The Eagles lead the GLIAC and rank 19th nationally in opponents' 3-point percentage (.305) and they are 10-0 when they hold teams to under 35 percent shooting from long range.
STAYING DISCIPLINED: The Eagles rank eighth in the country and lead the GLIAC by a large margin in fouls committed per game. Ashland allows just 12.1 fouls per game and have kept opponents off the free throw line as a result. Opponents take just 11.7 free throws per game against the Eagles.
SERIES VS. LAKERS: The Eagles are 15-18 all-time against the Lakers, but have won three of the last four contests. Grand Valley defeated the Ashland last season in Allendale, 87-75, but AU won the previous three games, including the 2016 GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal. The Lakers have not won at Kates Gymnasium since a 65-62 decision on Nov. 29, 2012. AU head coach John Ellenwood is 4-6 lifetime against the Lakers, but 3-2 at home.
SERIES VS. THE PRIDE: This is the first-ever matchup between Ashland and Purdue Northwest. The Pride are in their first season in the GLIAC and at the Division II level, having made the jump from the NAIA ranks. The school is newly formed as a merger between Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central.
5x GLIAC SOUTH POTW: AU forward Wendell Davis continues to add to his award collection as the fifht-year senior picked up his third straight GLIAC South Player of the Week award. He has won the honor five times in seven chances this season and now has a dozen GLIAC weekly honors to his name in his illustrious career. The 6-foot-6 Reynoldsburg, Ohio native ranks in the top 10 in seven statistical categories in the conference. In the two wins last week, plus a win over Thiel on Dec. 30, Davis averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game. He also sank nine 3-pointers over the three games as he controlled the offensive end of the floor.
WENDELL IN TOP 5: Davis has a good chance to move into the top 4 on Ashland's all-time scoring list on Thursday against GVSU. He began the year sitting 13th in the record book, but now is just 15 points from climbing into fourth all-time. That would make him the program's top scorer in the last 28 years (LeBron Gladden). He is also trying to join Gladden as just the second player in program history with three seasons of 500-plus points.
MARSALIS NEARS 1,000: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton, who will play in his 103rd career game on Thursday, is getting closer to the 1,000-point plateau. The 6-foot-4 Berea, Ohio native has scored 968 points in his career. He is looking to become the 27th player in program history to join the 1,000-point club. Hamilton was very good on the road trip, averaging 13.5 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 53 percent (9-17). He leads the team and ranks fourth in the GLIAC in free throw percentage (.854).
RECEIVING VOTES: The AU men's basketball team is receiving votes in the latest edition of the D2 Sports Information Directors of America (D2SIDA) national media poll. It is Ashland's first appearance in the media poll's "Others Receiving Votes" list this season. The Eagles were receiving votes in the NABC coaches' poll on Nov. 21.
NOBLE DOWN LOW: Ashland center Drew Noble continued his stellar sophomore campaign last weekend by posting strong statistical numbers while maintaining his presence on the defensive end. The 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio native averaged 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two assists per game in the Eagles' two wins – all near his season averages. He scored 20 of Ashland's 55 points in Saturday's win over the Wildcats, scoring the game's first eight points. For the season, he is shooting 50 percent from the field and ranks third in the GLIAC in rebounding (8.4).
3 IN SEVEN STRAIGHT: Redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn has shown an ability to light up a scoreboard in a hurry this season with his knack for hitting 3-pointers. He has made at least one triple in seven straight games and is shooting 40.3 percent (25-62) from beyond the arce on the year. He had back-to-back games of 21 and 14 points earlier this season against Davenport and Tiffin.
KEEPAWAY: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway has committed just one turnover over the last four games, playing 129 minutes. In that stretch, Haraway has an 8-to-1 assist-turnover ratio. For the season, Haraway has committed just 22 turnovers in 15 games and is tied with Davis for the league lead in minutes played (512). Haraway ranks third on the team in scoring (11.5) and is shooting 38 percent (20-53) from long distance.
CRASH THE GLASS: The Eagles continue to sit near the top of the GLIAC in rebounding margin, beating their opponents on the glass by an average of 6.5 per game. AU out-rebounded a stout Michigan Tech team, 40-30, last Thursday. Only four times this season has Ashland been beaten on the glass and that has been by a combined 13 rebounds.