The AU men's basketball team hits the road to open the GLIAC season this week against a pair of GLIAC North outfits.
TOUGHEST TEST: The AU men's basketball team will undergo its most difficult test of the young season this weekend when it opens Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on the road at Lake Superior State and Ferris State. LSSU and Ashland are each receiving votes in the NABC national coaches' poll this week while Ferris State is holding down the No. 5 spot in the rankings. The Lakers are ranked No. 24 in the D2SIDA media poll, as well, with the Bulldogs sitting at No. 3. LSSU and Ferris State have a combined 13-1 record this season.
REMATCHES: This week's schedule also sets up a couple of rematches from last year's GLIAC Tournament. Sixth-seeded Ashland toppled the No. 3-seed Lakers, 84-81, in Sault Ste. Marie in the quarterfinal. It was the Eagles' second win at LSSU last season after also winning the regular season matchup, 95-87. Ashland also played top-seeded Ferris State in the GLIAC title game, falling to the Bulldogs in Big Rapids, 80-79, coming just shy of their first GLIAC Tournament championship and a second straight NCAA Tournament berth.
A LOOK BACK: The Eagles come into the start of GLIAC play having won five of their first six games of the season, including a 2-1 mark last week. Ashland fell to Indianapolis, 62-61, in the opener of the AU Thanksgiving Classic last Tuesday, before picking up an 89-64 win over Kentucky State the following day at Kates Gymnasium. On Sunday, Ashland capped the week with a convincing 94-61 win over visiting Carlow.
LEADING WENDELL: Fifth-year senior wing Wendell Davis is back this season after missing the 2016-17 campaign with preseason injury. He has not missed a beat since coming back. The consensus Preseason All-American leads the GLIAC in scoring, averaging 24.7 points per game on 56.8 percent shooting, which ranks sixth in the conference. His scoring average has him sitting 12th nationally. The 6-foot-6 Davis also ranks third in the league in assists (4.3 per game) and 3-pointers made (17) and sits 7th in 3-point percentage (.486). He won the league's first two GLIAC South Player of the Week awards, scoring in double figures in all six games this season. He scored a career-best 37 points in a 97-87 win at California (Pa.) on Nov. 15.
CENTER NOBILITY: Sophomore center Drew Noble has made great strides in the jump from his freshman to sophomore season at Ashland. The 6-foot-8 standout has doubled the number of double-figure scoring games in his career through just six games this season, scoring at least 12 points five times in 2017-18. In his last outing against Carlow, Noble posted his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting. He has also hit four 3-pointers on the season after not attempting a triple all of last season. He is shooting 50.6 percent (40-79) from the floor on the year and 60 percent (36-60) from inside the arc. The sophomore is also tied for fourth in the GLIAC in free throw percentage (.833, 15-18).
BEN THE JET: Ashland's redshirt-junior point guard Ben Haraway has been remarkably consistent through the season's first six games, having scored in double figures frive times. The former GLIAC Freshman of the Year has also committed just eight turnovers in 208 minutes this season, racking up a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. Meanwhile, he is also averaging 15.7 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent (38-75) from the floor and 47.6 percent (10-21) from 3-point range – the latter figure ranking ninth in the GLIAC. He has also rebounded the ball exceptionally well for a guard, averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, collecting at least five in five of the six games.
MAKING AN IMPACT: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton has returned from an injury that limited him to just nine minutes combined in the season's first two games. The Eagles have felt his impact in a variety of ways, but mostly through his ability to drive and pass the ball. He is averaging 4.2 assists per 40 minutes and has more assists (13) than field goals (12). He is still shooting 52.2 percent (12-23) from the field on the year and averages 2.8 rebounds per contest.
R&D: Normally, companies will invest in R&D (research and development) when they are looking to launch a new product. For redshirt-freshman guard Aaron Thompson, his investment in rebounds and defense will lead to dividends for the Eagles. The 6-foot-2 wing routinely deals with the opponent's best perimeter player and has also been instrumental in crashing the glass. He ranks second on the team with 6.7 rebounds per game and is tied for the team lead with nine steals. He is averaging over two offensive rebounds per contest.
ZAHN THREAT: Redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn had a breakout game for the Eagles last Sunday against Carlow, pouring in 18 points and hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers. Known as a threat from outside, if his shot continues to go down, the whole offense should further benefit from the floor spacing Zahn provides.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN: Davis was named a preseason All-American by Street & Smith's and The Basketball Times despite missing all of last season with an injury. In 2015-16, Davis led the Eagles in scoring (17.4), rebounding (7.7) and assists (3.3), helping Ashland reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years. He was a first team NABC and Daktronics/D2CCA all-region selection.