For just the second time in school history, the Ashland University men's basketball team completed a road sweep of Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan in the Upper Peninsula by beating the Wildcats, 55-54, in Marquette on Saturday (Jan. 6) afternoon.
The last time the Eagles beat both MTU and NMU on the same road trip was in the 1999-2000 with both of those victories coming in overtime.
On Saturday, the Eagles – winners of seven straight – handed the Wildcats their first GLIAC loss of the season.
During their winning streak, the Eagles (12-3, 5-2 GLIAC) have become one of the best defensive teams in the country and that continued against Northern Michigan. AU forced the Wildcats to shoot just 39.6 percent (19-for-48) from the field as the hosts sank just three 3-pointers in the game, including a desperation heave at the buzzer that fell as time expired.
The game started with the hot hand of sophomore center Drew Noble, who scored the game's first eight points sandwiching a couple treys around a layup as AU did not allow a basket until four minutes into the game.
The Wildcats (9-5, 6-1 GLIAC) answered right back with their own 9-0 run over the next two minutes to tie the game. The Eagles then used a 12-1 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer by senior forward Wendell Davis to take a 28-15 lead with four minutes left before halftime. The Eagles took a 30-23 lead into the break.
NMU scored the first nine points of the second half before another Davis triple stopped the run and gave AU a 33-32 lead. The Wildcats went up by as many as four, 37-33, after an Isaiah Johnson slam, but Davis scored the next nine points for Ashland, which still trailed 43-42 with six minutes left.
The Eagles finally took the lead on a driving layup and free throw by senior forward Marsalis Hamilton with 2:43 remaining. After a Northern Michigan miss, Noble tipped in Davis' missed jumper to stretch Ashland's lead to 49-46.
Ashland then got another stop with Noble getting fouled on the rebound and sinking both free throws to make it 51-46 with 1:35 left.
With Ashland leading 51-48 with under a minute to play, Hamilton dove for a loose ball to collect a steal. The Wildcats earned a stop before opting for a quick 2-point basket to cut the margin to 51-50.
After a timeout, Davis sank two free throws to make it 53-50. The Eagles elected to foul to prevent a 3-pointer with four seconds left and Sam Taylor missed the second free throw, but Noble was fouled going for the board and iced the game with two clutch free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Those came in handy as Taylor sank a triple from halfcourt as time expired, but the Eagles had a two-possession lead.
Noble scored a game-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the Eagles, who shot just 33 percent (17-for-51) from the field, but hit seven 3-pointers.
Davis recorded his second straight double-double and scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as he added 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Hamilton had 11 points, five rebounds a three assists.
Eddie Tornes scored 18 points to lead the Wildcats, while Taylor scored 12 points. Johnson had nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Eagles will now return to Kates Gymnasium on Thursday (Jan. 11) at 7:30 p.m. to take on Grand Valley State.