The AU men's basketball team heads to Saginaw Valley State and Northwood for a pair of GLIAC cross-divisional games this week.
STAY HOT: The Eagles take a nine-game winning streak into this week's trip to Michigan where they will play a pair cross-divisional games against Saginaw Valley State and Northwood. The Eagles sit atop the GLIAC South standings, leading Wayne State by a game, while Davenport and SVSU rest four games back. After Thursday's game at Saginaw, the Eagles will have played half of their 20-game GLIAC schedule.
STERLING START: With 14 wins through their first 17 games, the AU men's basketball team is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season when the Eagles were also 14-3. Should Ashland win on Thursday, it would be the program's best start since the 1990-91 team started the season with a 22-3 record.
WINNING STREAK: The Eagles' nine-game winning streak is their longest since Jan. 23-March 1, 2016 when they won 12 straight games heading into the GLIAC Tournament semifinal. Ashland qualified for the NCAA Tournament that season – its first appearance in the national postseason since 1991. The streak is tied for the eighth-longest active streak in Division II.
CLUB 1,000: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton became the 27th member of Ashland's 1,000-point club in Saturday's win over Purdue Northwest. He now sits at 1,001 points in his career. Hamilton scored a season-high 21 points in the win – his sixth career 20-point game. He has scored in double figures in four straight games and also ranks third in the GLIAC in free throw percentage (84.3). Hamilton has also displayed an impressive ability to distribute the ball, averaging 3.6 assists per game. He had 10 assists in a 76-40 win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Dec. 18.
DEFENSIVE STANCE: Despite giving up 80 points and 12 3-pointers to Grand Valley State last Thursday, the Eagles still rank seventh in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 63.7 points per game. The GVSU game is the only outlier during the winning streak in which the Eagles have allowed more than 66 points in a game. Since its last loss on Dec. 2, Ashland has lowered its opponent's scoring average from 70.1 to its current mark. AU has also allowed the lowest opponents' field goal percentage in the GLIAC at 42.1 percent.
NO FOULS: The Eagles lead all of Division II, allowing just 12.4 fouls per game. The Eagles send their opponents to the line an average of 11.9 times per game. The free throw disparity in Ashland's win over GVSU was a difference-maker as the Eagles attempted 32 free throws to the Lakers' nine.
SERIES VS. CARDINALS: The all-time series between Ashland and Saginaw Valley State is even at 12-12, though the Cardinals have won each of the last five matchups between the schools, including a 75-68 decision last season when SVSU came to Kates Gymnasium ranked No. 1 in the nation on Dec. 8, 2016. The Eagles have also lost five straight in Saginaw, their last road win against the Cardinals coming on Feb. 9, 2008. Head coach John Ellenwood is 2-7 lifetime against Saginaw Valley State.
SERIES VS. THE 'WOLVES: The Eagles are 17-10 all-time agianst Northwood and have won the last two matchups between the schools – both coming in Midland. Last season, the Eagles scored the final seven points to beat the Timberwolves, 64-63, at Riepma Arena. The road team has won the last three meetings between the teams. Ellenwood is 5-4 lifetime against Northwood.
6x GLIAC SOUTH POTW: Forward Wendell Davis continued his remarkable season last week by picking up his sixth GLIAC South Player of the Week award of the season in just eight chances. He has won the award four straight weeks and 13 times in his career. Last week, he averaged 23 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 58 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point range and 92 percent from the line.
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: This week it was announced by Small College Basketball that Davis was named to the Watch List for the Bevo Francis Award, which is given to the top player in the country at the NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA, USCAA and NCCAA levels. Davis is one of 100 players selected to the watch list, which will be narrowed to 50 players on Feb. 15 and 25 players on March 15. Davis, a preseason All-American who missed last season with an injury, ranks second in the GLIAC in scoring (21.7), seventh in rebounding (7.0) and third in assists (4.0). He also leads the league in 3-pointers made (51) and is in the top six in all three shooting percentage categories.
WENDELL IN TOP 5: Davis began the season sitting 13th on AU's all-time scoring list, but now is within 97 points of the second spot. He is the now the program's all-time leading scorer since 1990 as he sits on an even 1,700 points. Davis is also trying to join Gladden as just the second player in program history with three seasons of 500-plus points.
RECEIVING VOTES: For the second straight week, the AU men's basketball team is receiving votes in the latest edition of the D2 Sports Information Directors of America (D2SIDA) national media poll. The Eagles were receiving votes in the NABC coaches' poll on Nov. 21, but have not yet reappeared in that organization's rankings.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Sophomore center Drew Noble has continued to improve off his freshman campaign as is averaging 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game – the latter figure putting him third in the GLIAC. He posted his sixth double-double of the season on Saturday with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and prior to that, had back-to-back 20-point games. He is shooting 51.4 percent (93-181) from the floor and has also hit 36.6 percent (15-41) of his 3-point tries. He has made five of his last seven attempts from beyond the arc.
AT THE POINT: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway registered consecutive double-figure scoring games last week, going for 20 points (15 in the second half) in the win over Grand Valley State. He also had 11 points and five assists against the Pride on Saturday. Haraway has committed just two turnovers in the last six games, spanning 193 minutes. He is averaging 11.9 points and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 44.5 percent (81-182) from the field and 34.4 percent (22-64) from long distance. He has hit a 3-pointer in each of the last eight games.
CRASH THE GLASS: The Eagles continue to sit near the top of the GLIAC in rebounding margin, beating their opponents on the glass by an average of 6.2 per game. Ashland and Grand Valley State, the top two teams in the league in rebounding margin, matched each other's 31 rebounds last Thursday and AU had a 38-30 advantage over PNW on Saturday. Ashland has been out-rebounded just four times this season.