The Ashland University men's basketball team, ranked No. 8 in Division II, continue GLIAC play against Saginaw Valley and Northwood this week before a nonconference game against Ohio-Chillicothe next Tuesday.
#8 Ashland (14-1) vs. Ohio University-Chillicothe (4-12)
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 6 p.m.
THREE AT HOME: The Eagles return from their two-game jaunt west to play Saginaw Valley State and Northwood at Kates Gymnasium this week. After those two games, the Eagles will have a couple days off before returning to the floor next Tuesday to take on Ohio University-Chillicothe. The Eagles were originally scheduled to play Cheyney on that date, but the Wolves canceled the game because of budgetary issues.
IN THE TOP 10: The Eagles climbed into the top 10 of the NABC Division II coaches' poll on Dec. 21 and have stayed there for three straight poll releases. This week, the Eagles sit in the No. 8 slot, dropping two spots from their high of No. 6 on Jan. 8. Last week, six teams entered play with undefeated records, but four of those teams lost. Just Bellarmine and Northwest Missouri State remain among the unbeaten. Davenport is the only other GLIAC school named in the poll. The Panthers are receiving votes outside the top 25.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles went on the road for a pair of games last week and suffered their first defeat of the season – a 68-61 setback to GLIAC newcomer Wisonsin-Parkside. The Eagles trailed by narrow margins most of the game, but were unable to come up with the plays down the stretch as they had a chance to take a lead late. Ashland bounced back nicely on Saturday, earning an 81-57 win over Purdue Northwest. The Eagles held the Pride to just 34.5 percent shooting in the game and had 19 assists on 28 field goals offensively.
ON THE DEFENSE: The Eagles continued their high-level defense last week, giving up just 61 and 57 points against the Rangers and Pride. The Rangers shot 50 percent from the floor, becoming just the second team to hit that mark against the Eagles this season. It was the first time Ashland was out-shot (by percentage) on the season.
SECOND IN THE NATION: The Eagles rank second in Division II in points allowed per game at 61.3. Ashland has allowed just one opponent (Ferris State) to score more than 70 points. They are 10th nationally in opponent field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot just 38.9 percent from the field. Ashland has the ninth-best mark in opponent 3-point percentage as the Eagles have held teams below 30 percent for the season. Last week, Parkside and Purdue Northwest made just 12 3-pointers combined.
ON THE GLASS: While they have gotten stops on a consistent basis this season, the Eagles have also been adept at cleaning up misses. They rank 10th in the country in rebounding margin, out-rebounding their opponents by 9.1 per game.
31 OFF THE BENCH: The Eagles have had a difficult time this season getting significant scoring production from its bench unit, but it got that in abundance in Saturday's win at Purdue Northwest. The Eagles' reserves scored 31 points against the Pride, led by senior guard Jay Slone, who matched a career high with 11 points. He hit three 3-pointers in the game, including two in the first half to cap an AU run that expanded the opening margin to 16-5. Senior forward Phil Frentsos added nine points to the tally as all five bench players scored at least three points. Freshman forward Jake McLoughlin and senior forward John Brady each connected on 3-pointers late in the contest. The AU bench has outscored its counterpart just twice this season.
ROBBING THE PRIDE: While the Eagles boast one of the best defenses in the country, they do not force many turnovers, usually forcing their opponents into low percentage shots and grabbing defensive rebounds. Against Purdue Northwest, the Eagles did both. They forced 17 turnovers and had a season-high 13 steals in the game, getting four thefts each from senior guard Ben Haraway and redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson. The Eagles led the Pride in points off turnovers, 25-11. Ashland also matched a season high with seven blocks in the game, getting four from junior center Drew Noble.
NOBLE BEVO WATCH LIST: On Tuesday, Noble was selected to the watch list for the Bevo Francis Award, which is given to the player with the finest overall season in small college basketball. That is comprised of NCAA Divisions II and III, NAIA, USCAA and NCCAA. Noble has scored in double figures in each of his last eight games and averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and two steals per game last week. He ranks sixth in the GLIAC in scoring (17.1) and ninth in rebounding (6.6). The Louisville, Ohio product is third in the GLIAC in field goals (95) and free throws (64).
THREE THE EASY WAY: The Eagles dropped 11 3-pointers in their win over Purdue Northwest on Saturday, their third-most this season and their highest total since hitting 15 in a Dec. 19 win over Kentucky Christian. Slone and Haraway had three treys apiece and Noble hit two from long distance. Ashland ranks seventh in the GLIAC in 3-pointers per game (7.3).
SERIES VS. CARDINALS: The Eagles and Cardinals are tied at 13-13 in their all-time series. Ashland snapped a six-game losing streak to Saginaw Valley in an 82-64 win on Feb. 22 at Kates Gymnasium. That game marked the first time in the John Ellenwood era that either team scored more than 80 points in the series. The teams split two games last season with Saginaw winning in Michigan, 72-66.
SERIES VS. TIMBERWOLVES: The Eagles hold an 18-11 all-time edge over Northwood after the teams split two games last season, each winning on their home floor. AU closed the regular season with an 81-57 win over the Timberwolves after Northwood won 74-64 in Midland, Mich. in the first meeting. The Eagles have won three of the last four games against the 'Wolves and Ellenwood is 6-5 lifetime in the series.
SERIES VS. HILLTOPPERS: The Eagles and Hilltoppers are meeting for the first time in their histories.
HOME COOKING: When they welcome the Cards, 'Wolves and Hilltoppers to Kates Gymnasium, the Eagles don't intend to be gracious hosts. The Eagles have been overwhelming at Kates Gymnasium under Ellenwood and even moreso recently. The Eagles are riding a 13-game home unbeaten streak that dates back to last season. Their only two home losses last year came by one point to Indianapolis and in overtime to then-No. 3 Ferris State.