The Ashland University men's basketball team had five scorers reach double figures and held Tiffin to 40 percent shooting to cruise to an 87-65 win on Saturday (Jan. 27) afternoon at Kates Gymnasium.
The Eagles righted themselves after dropping a pair of road conference games last week. Ashland has won nine straight games at Kates Gymnasium, which celebrated its 50-year anniversary by welcoming alumni from the men's and women's basketball programs on Saturday.
"It's an electric feeling," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "This is one of those days where it's a nice crowd – the men's team is doing great, the women's team is doing great – and alumni are back in the gym. You can feel the excitement.
"I don't think there's another place in the GLIAC that has that atmosphere that we have here that you can capture. People have nice gyms, but it's the environment within it that makes Kates special. It's nice to win on one of these days in front of the crowds and alumni. You just want to put on a good show for them."
AU's starters combined to shoot 66 percent (23-for-35) from the field for 79 points. Senior forward Wendell Davis led the squad with 27 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He was perfect on five 3-pointers and went 8-for-9 at the line. Redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson was 4-for-4 from the field for a career-high 12 points.
"Aaron did a great job attacking the basket today," Ellenwood said. "I think that's his best game this year and we needed that out of him. He nearly had a perfect game and that's something that's tough to do in college. He does stuff that doesn't show up on the stat sheet. He's got the best defensive hands of any guy I've ever coached. He did a great job getting his hand on the ball."
Ashland (15-5, 8-4 GLIAC) and Tiffin (6-14, 2-10 GLIAC) traded the lead 13 times in the first half with the Eagles falling behind by five, 23-18, with nine minutes left before halftime.
A slam by sophomore center Drew Noble and Thompson's started a 6-0 run for the Eagles as they regained the lead.
"Drew was a force down low on both ends," said Ellenwood. "He does a great job defensively, being physical without fouling. Offensively he keeps getting better every day and the more he soaks it in, the more he's going to be dominant in this conference.
Ashland got eight straight points from redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway, who splashed back-to-back 3-pointers and scored on a fastbreak to push Ashland's lead to 32-28.
Noble's triple gave AU a 37-31 advantage with 3:30 left in the first half before Davis knocked down four straight free throws following a technical foul to make it 41-31.
Davis' 3-pointer off a pick-and-pop with Haraway capped a 21-5 run over the final five-and-a-half minutes to give AU a 48-33 lead at halftime.
"We just needed a couple stops in a row and find some easy buckets on the fastbreak," said Ellenwood. "That was the difference in the game, that little stretch before half where we were able to get some easy ones."
The Eagles did not allow a field goal during a three-minute stretch early in the second half and ballooned the lead to 61-36 with 16:16 to play. The margin never shrunk under 20 points the rest of the way.
"At the start of the game we were both just feeling each other out and going back and forth," said Noble. "At the end of the first half and start of the second half we started to have our way and dominate them on both ends."
Davis had four rebounds and five assists to go with his game-high scoring output. Thompson had six rebounds and two steals. Haraway shot 5-for-8 from the field and was 2-for-2 from deep for 14 points. Noble tacked on 15 points, eight boards and two blocks, while senior forward Marsalis Hamilton added 11 points, three rebounds and four assists.
The Eagles shot 53 percent (25-for-47) from the field. Terrell Mabins scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half to lead the Dragons, who also got 13 points from Quentin Jones and 11 from Alex Brown.
"We made a point of emphasis of coming out and having a focus on defense, making sure we're getting stops," Thompson said. "Once we get that defensive train rolling, it's a confidence-builder."
The Eagles will return to the floor on Thursday (Feb. 1) when they travel to Wayne State for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off in Detroit.