The Ashland University men's basketball team welcomes Lake Superior State and No. 3 Ferris State to Kates Gymnasium this weekend.
HOME SWEET HOME: After a rough road trip last week, the Eagles return to their home floor this week where they have been extremely difficult to beat. The competition will be stiff as they welcome the GLIAC North's top two squads – Lake Superior State and No. 3 Ferris State – to Kates Gymnasium. Ashland has won nine straight games on its home floor and is 45-10 at home in the last four seasons. In his nine-year career with the Eagles, head coach John Ellenwood has led the prorgram to a 95-29 record at Kates Gymnasium.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles dropped a pair of road games to Wayne State (69-60) and Davenport (73-65) last week. The Eagles shot a healthy 45 percent (41-92) from the field in the two games, but lost the battle on the glass both times, averaging just 4.5 offensive rebounds, and committed 13 turnovers per game. Senior forward Wendell Davis led the team in points, rebounds and assists in each game, but AU had just two players in double figures against Wayne State and three scored 10-plus points against the Panthers.
WENDELL MOVING UP: With just six regular season games and the postseason remaining, Davis continues to climb the statistical charts as one of the best players to ever come through the Ashland program. This week, he has a chance to climb to No. 2 on the program's all-time scoring list and No. 3 all-time in rebounds. He would join only Larry Aulger (1959-63) to rank in the top three on both lists. The 6-foot-6 forward has scored in double figures 90 times in his career and hit the 20-plus mark on 37 occassions. He has 21 double-doubles – one of which on Saturday would move him up one spot on the scoring and rebounding lists.
SERIES VS. LAKERS: Ashland holds a 10-16 all-time record against Lake Superior State. The Eagles lost an 82-73 decision to the Lakers in Sault Ste. Marie on Nov. 30, but won both games last season, including an 84-81 triumph in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal in the Upper Peninsula for their second win at LSSU of the season. The teams have not played at Kates Gymnasium since Jan. 4, 2015 when AU earned a 70-68 win. Ellenwood is 5-5 all-time against Lake Superior State.
SERIES VS. BULLDOGS: The Eagles are 8-22 all-time against Ferris State with the Bulldogs winning four straight games. Ferris State beat Ashland in Big Rapids, 91-57, on Dec. 2. The teams met in the GLIAC Tournament championship game last season and Ferris edged the Eagles, 80-79, at Jim Wink Arena. AU last beat FSU on Dec. 5, 2015 in Michigan. The Eagles' last win over Ferris at Kates Gymnasium came Dec. 1, 2012 in a 71-49 result. Ellenwood is 2-11 lifetime against the Bulldogs.
D-FENCE: The Eagles maintain the 13th-ranked scoring defense in the nation, giving up just 65.3 points per game. Last week, the Eagles permitted Davenport to shoot just 39 percent (20-51) from the floor, but the Panthers won the battle on the glass, 38-26. It was the first time in nine games the Eagles had lost when they held their opponent to under 40 percent shooting.
WINNING INDICATORS: There are a few statistical marks that, when the Eagles hit them, they are very likely to win. Ashland is 10-0 when it holds its opponent to under 35 percent shooting from 3-point range. The Eagles are also 12-1 when they score at least 19 points and 12-2 when they equal or better their opponent on the glass.
WENDELL'S CAMPAIGN: In his campaign for GLIAC Player of the Year, Davis has posted one of the most impressive seasons in AU history. The fifth-year senior, who missed all of last season with injury, ranks in the top 10 in eight statistical categories in the GLIAC. He ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.8 points per game), seventh in rebounding (6.6) and fourth in assists (3.8). Davis also sits in the top 10 in the three shooting categories (.533/.455/.793) and leads the GLIAC in 3-pointers made (65) and minutes (766).
BENCH SHOOTING: One area the Eagles improved last week was in the shooting coming off the bench. Junior forward Phil Frentsos and redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn combined to shoot 47 percent (8-17) from 3-point range, and averaging 14.5 points in the two games. They each drained three 3-pointers against Wayne State as the bench out-scored the Warriors' reserves, 19-9. It was the first time since Dec. 18 the Eagles had outscored the opponent's bench. It was also the first time this season AU has lost a game in which its bench had more points.
NO FOULS: One of the reasons they are allowing so few points is that the Eagles rank second all of Division II, allowing just 13.4 fouls per game. The Eagles send their opponents to the line an average of 13 times per game. 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. Three Eagles (Wendell Davis, Ben Haraway and Drew Noble) each rank in the top 15 in the GLIAC in minutes per game.
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: Small College Basketball announced last month 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, ranks fifth on Ashland's all-time rebounding list.