The Ashland University men's basketball team used a staunch defensive effort to stifle visiting Wayne State, 70-48, on Thursday (Dec. 7) night in the GLIAC home opener for the Eagles at Kates Gymnasium.
The Eagles (6-3, 1-2 GLIAC), who stopped a brief two-game losing streak, limited the Warriors (3-4, 2-1 GLIAC) to 33 percent (20-for-60) shooting and just two 3-pointers on the night. The 48 points allowed were the fewest since a 67-48 win over Northern Michigan on Jan. 7 last season.
"We made some adjustments and we did a great job keying in on those adjustments on the defensive end," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "I think there's another gear in this team that we have to find. We'll keep getting better as the year goes on."
Wayne State scored the first basket of the game, but Ashland scored the next seven points, including five from sophomore center Drew Noble, to take the lead for good in the early minutes.
Noble led the Eagles with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway added 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and senior forward Marsalis Hamilton added 10 points, five assists and three rebounds.
The Eagles stretched the lead to double digits, 30-20, with 4:43 to play on free throws by Haraway. That was part of an 11-2 run over the last six minutes of the first half as AU took a 37-22 lead into halftime.
The defensive intensity held early in the second half as the Eagles held the Warriors without a field goal for the first five minutes as they stretched their lead to 46-23, getting five points from Hamilton in that run. Ashland's margin never fell below 18 after that point.
"We switched up some things we were doing on defense, trying to have more of a team mindset" said Noble. "They're a good driving team, so having extra guys stacking confused them on offense."
Senior forward Wendell Davis consistently drew double and triple teams and the Eagles worked the ball around to find open players. Davis finished with eight points and six boards, while junior forward Phil Frentsos led the reserves with eight points and seven rebounds.
"We've been working on ways to play off each other better," Haraway said. "We did a good job when Wendell got downhill, flipped his hips and kicked out to me, I could be aggressive."
The Eagles shot 52.9 percent (27-for-51) from the field and on the night and had 13 assists against 12 turnovers. Ashland also pounded the glass to a 40-29 advantage.
Ashland will now rest up for a test against GLIAC newcomer Davenport (8-2, 3-0 GLIAC), which has yet to lose a conference contest after defeating Tiffin on Thursday night. Tip-off on Saturday (Dec. 9) against the Panthers is set for 3 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium.