The Ashland University men's basketball team used a 27-3 run that spanned both halves to turn a 33-19 deficit into a 10-point lead as the Eagles sailed to a 78-66 win over visiting Purdue Northwest in GLIAC action on Saturday (Jan. 13) afternoon at Kates Gymnasium.
Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton scored a season-high 21 points and became the 27th AU player to reach the 1,000-point mark. He now has 1,001 career points.
"It means everything. I appreciate my teammates, the coaching staff and Ashland University for giving me a chance to come her to play ball," Hamilton said. "Coach challenged me to get 20 before the game and I thought to be more aggressive. I tried to stay aggressive and my teammates put me in position to excel."
The Eagles (14-3, 7-2 GLIAC), who have now won nine straight games, struggled for much of the first half as the Pride (1-16, 1-8 GLIAC) controlled the pace and shot 53.8 percent (14-for-26) in the first half, while forcing nine AU turnovers.
"It was a lackadaisical effort at the beginning of the game. That was huge," said fifth-year senior forward Wendell Davis, who scored a game-high 24 points. "We, as seniors, talked about it during the game. You'd rather learn now than learn later on. You learn with a win. Sometimes you have to take these days and say, 'it was a good game, we pulled it out,' but learn from it and know you can't let it happen again."
Ashland trailed 33-19 with 2:28 to play before halftime until the Eagles closed with an 11-0 run capped by Hamilton's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. It was just his third triple of the season.
"It started with getting stops," said Hamilton. "We wanted to push the pace, but the only way to really get it going is to get stops and shove it right back at them, especially when they're going into zone."
AU continued its run in the second half, holding the Pride without a field goal until 16:39 remained in the game as the Eagles built a 37-33 lead.
"The message at halftime was to get it to the high post and the short corner and play through that," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "And effort. We had a talk about effort and that's something that our guys needed to play harder in the second half. They went man-to-man in the second half and we started attacking the basket a little better."
After a three-point play by Chris Nunn, the Eagles scored the next nine points to push the lead up to 46-36 with 13:39 left. Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway scored four points on the run and Davis added a three-point play.
The margin never slipped under seven the rest of the way.
Ashland forced the Purdue Northwest to shoot just 28.1 percent (9-for-32) from the field in the second half as the Eagles turned up their defensive effort.
Sophomore center Drew Noble had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Haraway tacked on 11 points to go with five assists. AU won the battle on the glass, 38-30, and committed just four turnovers in the second half.
The Eagles will now look to extend their winning streak to double-digits next Thursday (Jan. 18) when they travel to Saginaw Valley State for an 8 p.m. tip-off.