The AU men's basketball team welcomes NCAA Division III Thiel to Kates Gymnasium on Saturday in AU's final nonconference game of the season.
2018 TUNE-UP: The Eagles hit the court for the final time this year when they welcome Thiel for a visit to Kates Gymnasium. It will be the last nonconference game for the Eagles in the regular season and will give them a chance to shake out their legs after a 12-day layoff from the Christmas holiday break. The schedule is no cupcake next week as Ashland makes its bi-annual trip to the far stretches of the Upper Peninsula to resume GLIAC play against Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan. Those teams have a combined record of 9-1 in conference play this season.
EYEING FIVE STRAIGHT: The Eagles are currently riding their longest winning streak of the season, having won their last four games. Their last winning streak of this length came Jan. 7-30, 2017 when they won seven straight GLIAC contests to run their record to 14-6 last season.
SERIES VS. THIEL: The AU men have played Thiel six times in their history with the Eagles sweeping all six matchups. The series between the two schools is one of the oldest on record for Ashland. The teams' first contest came on Feb. 11, 1922 – almost 96 years ago – with the Eagles winning, 38-25, at Old College Gym. AU went 7-4 that season under head coach Arthur Murray. The teams last met last season as the Eagles took a 94-56 win on the same date, Dec. 30. Nine Eagles scored at least six points, including Ben Haraway and Drew Noble, who each scored in double figures.
RECORD DEFENSE: When the Eagles last saw the floor on Dec. 18, they turned in one of the best defensive performances in program history. In Ashland's 76-40 win over visiting West Virginia Wesleyan, the Eagles gave up the fewest amount of points they had allowed since a 20-14 win over Fredonia State on Feb. 17, 1973. The 40 points allowed were the fewest given up by Ashland in the shot clock era, which began in 1985. AU held the Bobcats to just 31 percent (16-52) shooting and only four 3-pointers.
WENDELL POTW: For the fourth time in six chances this season, fifth-year senior forward Wendell Davis was named the GLIAC South Player of the Week for his performance prior to the Christmas break. Davis averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the wins at Tiffin and against West Virginia Wesleyan. Davis has now won the weekly conference honor 11 times in his career. He also won the award four times as a sophomore and three as a junior. Davis missed last season with a preseason knee injury, but has returned once again as perhaps the top player in the GLIAC. He is currently ranked in the top eight in six statistical categories, including second in scoring (21.4 points per game) and leading the league in 3-pointers made (37). Davis also rates third in assists and seventh in rebounding.
MARSALIS' DOLLAR: If an assist is a "dime," then senior forward Marsalis Hamilton earned himself a cool $1 in the 76-40 win over West Virginia Wesleyan. The senior slasher dished out 10 assists in the win, the most by an AU player since DaWuan Thomas had 10 assists on Feb. 29, 2012 at Hillsdale. Even more impressive than just the number is that eight of his assists were finished with 3-pointers as he accounted for 28 points just with his passing. Seventeen of Davis' game-high 26 points came off assists by Hamilton. Four other Eagles also benefited from his distribution. Hamilton also scored 12 points, collected four rebounds and had two steals. His aggressiveness also led to nine free throw attempts. Saturday's game against Thiel will be the 100th in Hamilton's career.
RECENT D: During the Eagles' four-game winning streak, they have put up an impressive run of defense. AU has held three of its last four opponents to 54 points or fewer and all of them to 65 points or less. In the winning streak, the Eagles have forced their opponents to shoot just 37 percent (82-219) from the floor, including a 26 percent mark (16-62) from 3-point range. This recent run has moved the Eagles to 13th in the nation in points per game allowed (64.0). The Eagles lead the GLIAC in 3-point defense (.312) and are third in opponents' field goal percentage (.429).
WENDELL IN TOP 5: Davis continues to stack his resume as one of the top players the AU program has ever seen. Last week he moved to fifth all-time on Ashland's scoring list, surpassing former All-American and current professional player Evan Yates, who graduated four years ago. Yates currently plays overseas for CB Clavijo in Spain. Davis needs 81 points to reach fourth all-time on the list and 210 to get to the No. 2 spot.
CRASH THE GLASS: Along with the Eagles' ability to shut down an opponent's offense comes the need to rebound the ball. The Eagles have been the second-best team in the GLIAC in that category, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 6.6 per game. That figure rates 34th nationally. Ashland has been out-rebounded just three times all season by a combined nine rebounds. In their last win against the Bobcats, the Eagles won the battle on the glass, 49-26, for their best margin of the season. It was the most rebounds for the Eagles since they snagged 52 in a 99-68 win over Ohio Mid-Western on Dec. 20, 2014.
3-BALL: The Eagles have continued to showcase their talent beyond the 3-point arc, leading the conference in threes made per game (8.9) and ranking third in 3-point percentage (.381). The Eagles already have five players with at least 10 3-point makes and are led by Davis, who is tops in the conference with 37. Redshirt-freshman guard Joey Zahn has made 22 3-pointers this season on 44 percent shooting. Haraway, Noble and junior forward Phil Frentsos are also in double figures in 3-point makes.
NOBLE DOWN LOW: Noble, a sophomore center, made a concerted effort the last two games to get himself established as the Eagles' post presence. The 6-foot-8, 200-pounder, who worked on his 3-point game in the offseason and early portions of this regular season, took just one 3-pointer in the games against Tiffin and WVWC. Instead, he shot 63 percent (10-16) from the field as he opened up space on the perimeter for the Eagles' shooters and slashers. Noble also corralled a career-high 15 rebounds (12 defensive) in the win over the Bobcats and also had a career-best four steals as he consistently harrassed entry passes.
RUN THE POINT: Haraway, a redshirt-junior point guard, ranks third on the Eagles in scoring, averaging 12.3 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range. In the win over West Virginia Wesleyan, Haraway played 29 minutes and did not commit a turnover and also dished out three assists. He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5.