The AU men's basketball team will travel to Tiffin on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip-off, then return home Monday for a 7:30 p.m. start against non-league opponent West Virginia Wesleyan.
CHRISTMAS IS COMING: The Eagles will play two final games before they head home for a week-long Christmas break. Ashland will travel to Tiffin on Saturday for its final GLIAC contest of 2017 before welcoming West Virginia Wesleyan to Kates Gymnasium for a Monday matchup. Ashland won't return to the court again until Dec. 30 when it battles Theil in a non-league game.
FIVE STRAIGHT: The Eagles have won five consecutive games against the Dragons and hold a 33-6 all-time record against their GLIAC South counterparts. This will be the last season for Tiffin in the GLIAC as the school will move to the Great Midwest Athletic Conferece in 2018-19. AU's last loss to the Dragons came on Jan. 31, 2015 in Tiffin. Against West Virginia Wesleyan, the Eagles are 6-2 all-time, but the teams haven't played since the Bobcats pulled out a 69-62 win over the Eagles on Dec. 17, 2007. The teams played once in each of the seven seasons prior to that game as well.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: Coming off a brutally difficult road trip in which Ashland came up empty in two games, the Eagles rebounded nicely with a pair of comfortable home wins over Wayne State and Davenport, both of which came into Kates Gymnasium undefeated in conference play. Ashland now sits just one game in back of each for first place in the GLIAC South.
SHUT IT DOWN: The Eagles turned up their defensive effort in Thursday's 70-48 win over Wayne State. It was the fewest points Ashland had allowed since a 67-48 win over Northern Michigan on Jan. 7 last season. The Eagles also forced Wayne State to shoot just 33.3 percent (20-60) from the field, the lowest mark by a GLIAC opponent since Ashland held Grand Valley State to 32.8 percent shooting on March 1, 2016. The Eagles also gave up just two 3-pointers to the Warriors.
NOTHING EASY: The Eagles now rank third in the GLIAC in points allowed per game (67.4) and opponents' shooting percentage (43.9).
CRASH THE GLASS: One area of the floor where the Eagles have seen a marked improvement over the last several years is on the boards. Ashland rates as the top rebounding team in the GLIAC, out-rebounding opponents by a 5.5 rebound per game margin. It has been a team effort on the glass with sophomore center Drew Noble and senior forward Wendell Davis leading the way. But the bigger players have been helped immensely by redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson and redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway, who combine to average nearly 10 rebounds per game.
SHOOT, BABY, SHOOT: After leading the GLIAC in 3-point percentage last season, the Eagles are off to a great start in that area this year as well. The Eagles rate third in the GLIAC in long-range shooting (39.3 percent) and lead the conference in treys per game (9.0). AU got a big boost in its 86-65 win over Davenport on Saturday. The Eagles shot 62.5 percent (15-24) from 3-point range in the game. Four players hit multiple treys, led by redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn, who went 7-for-9 from long range for a team-high 21 points. It was the most threes by an AU player since Boo Osborne hit seven on Jan. 7 last season. Davis cashed in with three triples while Haraway and junior forward Phil Frentsos hit two each.
GLIAC SOUTH POTW: For his performances last week, Davis was named the GLIAC South Player of the Week for the third time in five weeks this season. It was also his 10th career GLIAC weekly honor. Davis had eight points and six boards against Wayne State on Thursday and followed that up with a monster double-double against Davenport with 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. He also needed just eight field goal attempts, going 6-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 5-for-5 from the line. He ranks in the top seven in the GLIAC in five categories: scoring (2nd), rebounding (7th), assists (3rd), field goal percentage (6th) and 3-point percentage (2nd).
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Davis has a chance to get to fifth on AU's all-time scoring list this week, needing just 19 points to pass two players on AU's scoring list. Last week, he surpassed Isaac Kincaid and Fred Graham to jump to seventh all-time.
SLASH & KICK: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton has developed quite the reputation in his career of being an effective passer. That has been on display all season as the 6-foot-4 Berea, Ohio native has multiple assists in each of his seven starts this year. In the last two games, he has five assists apiece and has hit that mark three times this year. Of his 10 assists last week, five were on 3-pointers. For his career, Hamilton averages 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. This year, he is averaging 3.3 assists per game and is shooting 50.9 percent from the floor.
#NCAATOP10: Frentsos was the beneficiary of two assists from Hamilton on Saturday, including a monster two-handed alley-oop jam, on which he also drew a foul. The dunk was featured on the NCAA social media pages as an #NCAATop10 play last week. Frentsos played very well in the two games last week, averaging 11.5 points and four rebounds while shooting 50 percent (7-14) from the field with three 3-pointers. Frentsos is the first man off head coach John Ellenwood's bench, typically giving Davis a rest early in the first half. The Eagles' main bench unit consists of just three players – Frentsos, Zahn and true freshman guard Peyton Bennington.
HARAWAY EFFICIENT: Haraway continued his efficient play from the point guard spot, using his iso game to free up space in the mid-range and for his teammates. He scored in double figures in both games last week and dished out four assists against Davenport. Haraway is shooting 49.1 percent from the floor on the season. He is also averaging less than two turnovers per game, despite ranking third in the GLIAC in minutes per game (34.5). Davis sits just behind him in fourth place (34.3).
WING D: Redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson plays the role of defensive stopper for the Eagles, using his length to harass opposing perimeter players. Thompson averaged 2.5 steals per game last week and he leads the team with 16 steals on the season. His 1.6 steals per game is tied for the seventh in the GLIAC. Thompson is holding his own offensively, hitting 41.9 percent of his shots while averaging 5.1 points per game.