Fifth-year senior forward Wendell Davis played his first competitive game in nearly 20 months and sophomore center Drew Noble had a career night as the Ashland University men's basketball team opened the 2017-18 season with a 73-58 win over visiting Lake Erie on Friday (Nov. 10) night at Kates Gymnasium.
Davis scored 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting and dished out six assists in his return to the court after missing last season with an injury.
"It was great being back," said Davis, who last played in an NCAA Tournament game on March 12, 2016. "It was just how I expected. It was a great team quality win. I just had fun being back on the court with my guys and giving it all we had."
The Eagles had some trouble getting separation from the Storm in the first half as the game saw nine tie scores in the opening 20 minutes. Ashland finally closed the half with a 6-0 run over the last 2:14 before halftime. The Eagles forced three straight empty possessions by Lake Erie and got two buckets by Davis and a third by Noble to take a 43-36 lead into the break.
"We finally got a couple stops in a row and a couple scores," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "That last shot right before halftime was big by Drew. Him hitting the outside shot is big for us because people have to respect that. That's going to help us tremendously."
Noble was the high scorer for the Eagles with 29 points to go with nine rebounds. He was 10-for-14 from the floor and went 2-for-5 from the 3-point line. He did not attempt any 3-pointers last season.
"I've got the easy part," said Noble. "You play with Wendell and Ben (Haraway) and Sell (Marsalis Hamilton), it seems like everything is there and open. It's like, 'alright, I'll take that.' Just playing with those guys opens up a lot of things for us and I was the beneficiary of that."
The Eagles quickly pushed their lead to double-digits early in the second half by scoring on their first six possessions and the margin never slipped under eight points the rest of the way. Davis scored nine points in that half-opening stretch.
"To start the game I had a lot of jitters and I was nervous," said Davis. "Once we started to play I think Drew got a layup and that was the ice-breaker for me. This is basketball, nothing has changed. It's the same game as I know it. If I go out here, compete and play hard, everything else will follow."
Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway kept the Eagles afloat in the first half, hitting a couple tough step-back jumpers and knocking down a 3-pointer when the offense was struggling to get into a flow. He finished with 17 points – 13 of those came in the first half.
The Eagles shot 47.5 percent (28-for-59) from the floor and out-rebounded the Storm, 36-28. They held Lake Erie to 43.6 percent (24-for-55) shooting and limited the Storm to just 2-for-14 shooting from 3-point range in the second half.
The Eagles will continue the GLIAC/G-MAC Challenge on Sunday (Nov. 12) with its first road test of the season at Ohio Dominican. Tip-off in Columbus is set for 2 p.m.