With the score tied at 80 with under a minute play, the Ashland University men's basketball team closed out Grand Valley State with a 9-0 run to beat the Lakers, 89-80, on Thursday (Jan. 11) night at Kates Gymnasium. The win ran the Eagles' winning streak to eight.
A 3-pointer by GVSU's Hunter Hale knotted the game with 59 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway drove hard and found senior forward Wendell Davis on the right wing. Davis drilled a triple to give the Eagles an 83-80 lead.
"I had a feeling it was going to come, because on the timeout before, I looked at Ben and told him the kick-out was wide open," Davis said. "Luckily, Ben drove it with one hard dribble, kicked it…and it worked out. I was able to hit the shot."
After an AU timeout, Jake Van Tubbergen drove into the lane, but the Eagles swallowed him up and redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson smothered the rebound. Thompson, who came into the game shooting 42 percent from the line sank two free throws to push the lead to five.
Twice more, the Eagles got stops on the defensive end, Thompson corralled the defensive rebound and made two free throws. He was 8-for-8 from the line in the game, scoring 10 points to go with seven boards.
The second half was a battle of offenses against the two best defenses in the GLIAC. At one point, each team scored on nine straight possessions. There were eight tie scores and six lead changes in the second half.
GVSU's Myles Miller went head-to-head with Haraway. The pair combined for 33 points in the second half alone. Miller used a combination of drives and mid-range shots to continue the scoring run for the Lakers (8-8, 3-5 GLIAC), while Haraway slashed to the rim at will against a staunch GVSU defense. Haraway was 7-for-10 in the second half when he scored 15 of his 22 points.
"Shots weren't falling in the first half for me," Haraway said. "I decided I was going to try to get to the rack a little bit more. I have some great players out here, like Wendell, to catch-and-shoot, so the gaps were open. I was able to get in there and finish."
The Eagles trailed, 74-73 with 3:56 on the clock, but two free throws by senior forward Marsalis Hamilton gave AU a 75-74 advantage.
When Hale missed a jumper on Grand Valley's next possession it was just the visitor's second missed shot in seven minutes, but the Eagles never trailed after that point.
In the first half, the Eagles led by as many as nine points and took a 42-36 lead into halftime. Ashland worked its offense through senior center Drew Noble, who was a handful all night for the Lakers. He scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half and collected eight rebounds.
"Sometimes you have those games where you just seem like everything is going in," Noble said. "Playing with some great players, you're going to get easy shots, open shots."
Three AU starters scored at least 20 points as Davis went for 22 points and seven rebounds on just 10 field goal attempts. He was 6-for-6 at the line. Hamilton was the fifth AU player in double figures with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
"That was a typical Grand Valley-Ashland game, it comes down to the last minute," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "It's always back-and-forth. They never go away. It's scary when guys are shooting the ball like that. You just have to guard them a little tougher. When you get closer to those guys, they're also capable of driving the ball."
The Eagles can run their winning streak to nine on Saturday (Jan. 13) at 3 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium where they will take on Purdue Northwest.