The AU men's basketball team travels to Michigan this week to play at Wayne State and Davenport, two teams the Eagles handled at Kates Gymnasium in December.
BACK TO MICHIGAN: The AU men's basketball team plays the final two games of a stretch that sees the Eagles play four out of five games in Michigan as they travel to Detroit and Grand Rapids this week. The Eagles play Wayne State on Thursday before heading west to play Davenport. The Eagles are 2-4 in the Mitten State this season with a couple victories in the Upper Peninsula to start January. AU and Wayne State are separated by one game at the top of the GLIAC South standings.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles played just one game last week and dismantled Tiffin, 87-65, on Saturday at Kates Gymnasium, on a day the program celebrated 50 years in the building. All five starters reached double figures, led by senior forward Wendell Davis' 27 points. The Eagles also returned to their suffocating defense, forcing the Dragons to shoot just 40 percent (20-50) from the field and eliciting 14 turnovers.
THE STARTING FIVE: Ashland's starting lineup was excellent in Saturday's game. The unit scored 79 points and combined to shoot 66 percent (23-35) from the field with nine 3-pointers.
A.T. STANDS OUT: Redshirt-freshman guard Aaron Thompson made an impact on both ends of the floor in what was his best game of the season, according to head coach John Ellenwood. Thompson was 4-for-4 from the field, including a 3-pointer and three successful drives to the basket, collected six boards and got his hands on two steals. He scored a career-high 12 points and his length and physicality were instrumental on the perimeter.
WENDELL POTW...AGAIN: In what is becoming a weekly ritual, Davis was selected as the GLIAC South Player of the Week for his performance against the Dragons. He has won the honor seven times this season and 14 times in his career. Against Tiffin, he didn't miss his first shot until 9:37 remained in the game and finished 7-for-9 from the field and hit all five of his 3-point attempts. He was 8-for-9 from the line and added five assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes. One of the most efficient players in the country, Davis is slashing .530/.450/.802 this season and ranks in the top seven of seven statistical categories in the GLIAC and leads the leauge with 59 3-point makes.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Eagles have maintained one of the top defenses in the country since the start of their nine-game winning streak on Dec. 7 (against Wayne State, incidentally). In that stretch opponents are shooting just 39.9 percent (273-684) from the field and have hit just 33.5 percent (76-227) of their 3-point tries. Overall, Ashland's defense ranks 12th in the country and leads the GLIAC, giving up just 64.7 points per game. AU also has the second-stingiest defense in the GLIAC according to field goal percentage (.422).
NO FOULS: One of the reasons they are allowing so few points is that the Eagles lead all of Division II, allowing just 13.1 fouls per game. The Eagles send their opponents to the line an average of 12.6 times per game. The lack of foul trouble for the Eagles has allowed its starters to garner a large share of the minutes as they have avoided having to go to the bench for long stretches of time. Four Eagles (Wendell Davis, Ben Haraway, Drew Noble and Marsalis Hamilton) each rank in the top 15 in the GLIAC in minutes per game.
SERIES VS. WARRIORS: The Eagles are 25-30 all-time against Wayne State in a series that dates back to Ashland's second season in 1921-22. The Warriors won both games against Ashland that season. The Eagles have had the better of the recent history, though, winning six of the last seven games against Wayne State, including a 70-48 win at Kates Gymnasium on Dec. 7. WSU won the last meeting in Detroit on Jan. 23, 2016, but the Eagles had won the previous five matchups. Ellenwood is 7-7 lifetime against Wayne State.
SERIES VS. PANTHERS: The Eagles and Panthers matched up for the first time in history on Dec. 9 with the Eagles winning in an 86-65 rout. Davenport is in its first season in the GLIAC and NCAA Division II after moving up from the NAIA ranks. The Panthers are ineligible for NCAA postseason play.
BEN'S SCORING: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway has put together five straight games of scoring in double figures, averaging 15.6 points. He is shooting 51 percent (29-57) in that stretch and has hit five 3-pointers in the last two games alone. Against Tiffin, Haraway scored 14 points to go with four assists. He was 2-for-2 from long distance. Haraway now sits at 935 points in his career, including the 2014-15 season when he was the GLIAC Freshman of the Year at Malone.
CONSISTENT HAMILTON: Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton reached double figures in scoring in each of the last seven games, averaging 15 points per game while shooting 55 percent (37-67) from the field. In each game, he has shot at least 50 percent from the field. For the year, he is averaging 10.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while ranking third in the conference in free throw percentage (85.1).
WENDELL'S GOING FOR #2: With his 27 points against Tiffin, Davis moved into third place on Ashland's all-time scoring list, surpassing Bill Higgins, whose last year was in 1974. Davis is the highest scorer the AU men's program has seen since LeBron Gladden's last season in 1990. Davis can join Gladden as just the second player in program history to reach 500 points in three seasons. He is just 47 points from becoming the program's second all-time leading scorer.
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: Last 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 fifth on Ashland's all-time rebounding list.
NOBLE ON THE BLOCK: Sophomore center Drew Noble has continued his rise as one of the best post players in the GLIAC, averaging 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 51 percent (107-211) from the field. He has scored at least nine points and collected at least five rebounds in each of the last 10 games. Noble is also shooting 37 percent (18-49) from 3-point range this season.