The AU men's basketball team will celebrate 50 years in Kates Gymnasium with a GLIAC contest against Tiffin on Saturday at 3 p.m.
BACK ON TRACK: Carrying a nine-game winning streak into last week's road trip to Saginaw Valley State and Northwood, the AU men's basketeball team suffered a pair of defeats in Michigan to fall to 7-4 in GLIAC play and 14-5 overall. Ashland still maintains a one-game lead over Wayne State in the GLIAC South standings. The Eagles will look to start a new winning streak on Saturday as they take on Tiffin at Kates Gymnasium. Ashland is starting its second trip through the GLIAC schedule this week, having already played each team remaining on its schedule this season.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles dropped a 72-66 decision at Saginaw Valley State last Thursday and lost to Northwood on Saturday, 74-64. The Eagles held a halftime lead against the Cardinals, but Mike Wells Jr. scored 31 of his game-high 35 points in the second half, hitting all five of his 3-pointers, as SVSU was able to get the win. It was the first time this season the Eagles have lost when leading at halftime. Ashland out-shot Northwood, 46 percent to 40.6 percent, but the Timberwolves still managed to knock down 11 3-pointers and held a 12-0 advantage in second half points. AU's reserves were also outscored 36-4 in the game.
50 YEARS AT KATES: At Saturday's game against the Dragons, the Ashland Univeristy athletic department is celebrating 50 years at the venerable Kates Gymnasium. The University is welcoming back alumni from both the men's and women's basketball programs to mark the occassion. The alumni from both programs will have a pregame reception and then will be honored prior to the national anthems of each game on Saturday. Throughout the day, memories from Kates Gymnasium will be shared over over the PA system.
EXTRA REST: The Eagles are had a full week off to rest, recuperate and prepare for the Dragons as the GLIAC schedule did not feature conference games on Thursday. The only league game on Thursday was between Davenport and Michigan Tech, which was a make-up of a previously-postponed game. Tiffin is coming off a 67-60 defeat to Salem International on Wednesday.
WINNING STREAK: When the Eagles had their nine-game winning streak snapped, it was their longest since Jan. 23-March 1, 2016 when they won 12 straight games heading into the GLIAC Tournament semifinal. Ashland qualified for the NCAA Tournament that season – its first appearance in the national postseason since 1991.
DEFENSIVE STANCE: The Eagles maintained a strong defensive effort last week, despite dropping both games. They held Northwood to just 41 percent shooting on Saturday and limited the Cardinals to 72 points and a 47 percent shooting mark and only seven 3-pointers. The Eagles have given up just 64.7 points per game this season – a figure that leads the GLIAC and ranks 12th in the nation. Ashland has the second-best opponent's field goal percentage in the conference and the third-best 3-point percentage allowed.
NO FOULS: The Eagles lead all of Division II, allowing just 12.6 fouls per game. The Eagles send their opponents to the line an average of 11.8 times per game. That average held steady last week as the Cardinals and 'Wolves combined for just 23 free throws attempted. The lack of foul trouble for the Eagles has allowed its starters to garner a large share of the minutes as they have avoided having to go to the bench for long stretches of time. Four Eagles (Wendell Davis, Ben Haraway, Drew Noble and Marsalis Hamilton) each rank in the top 14 in the GLIAC in minutes per game.
SERIES VS. DRAGONS: The Eagles hold a 34-6 all-time record against Tiffin, including a 58-54 road win over the Dragons in December. The series between the schools began in 1977-78 with a 98-64 win at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles have won six straight in the series and 18 in a row at Kates Gymnasium. The Dragons have not beaten the Eagles in Ashland since Dec. 5, 1981. Head coach John Ellenwood is 15-2 all-time against the Dragons.
MARSALIS ON TRACK: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton put together a quality weekend for the Eagles on the road trip, averaging 18 points, four rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Hamilton has scored in double figures in each of his last six games, averaging 15.7 points, four rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in that stretch while shooting 56 percent (34-61) from the floor and 86 percent (24-28) from the free throw line. For the season, he has increased his scoring average to 10.9 points per game and he ranks fourth in the GLIAC in free throw percentage (83.9). He averages 3.9 free throw attempts per game.
WENDELL'S CAMPAIGN: Senior forward Wendell Davis is bolstering one of the finest careers in Ashland University history with one of the best seasons ever seen. The 6-foot-6 Reynoldsburg, Ohio native ranks second in the GLIAC in scoring (20.7) points and rates in the top 10 in six other statistical categories. His efficiency is perhaps what stands out the most as he has scored 393 points on just 255 field goal attempts this season. He is slashing .522/.429/.793 on the season, ranking in the top 10 in the GLIAC in all three shooting accuracy categories.
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: Last week it was announced by Small College Basketball that Davis was named to the Watch List for the Bevo Francis Award, which is given to the top player in the country at the NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA, USCAA and NCCAA levels. Davis is one of 100 players selected to the watch list, which will be narrowed to 50 players on Feb. 15 and 25 players on March 15. Davis, a preseason All-American who missed last season with an injury, has a chance to become just the second player in program history to have three 500-point seasons and he also should climb to the program's No. 2 all-time scoring slot. He currently rates as the program's fifth all-time leading rebounder.
KEEPAWAY (AGAIN): For the last eight games, redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway has given up just three turnovers, despite playing 271 minutes in that stretch. He has also scored in double digits in each of the last four games, including a 19-point outburst at Northwood on Saturday when he drained three triples, went 4-for-4 from the line and blocked two shots. He is currently carrying a 1.9 assist-turnover ratio.