The AU men's basketball team will play a couple crucial games on the road this week at Grand Valley State and Purdue Northwest.
CRUCIAL ROAD TRIP: The Ashland University men's basketball team will make its final regular season road trip this week with a drive to Grand Valley State and Purdue Northwest. Those teams sit in the bottom two spots in the GLIAC North after AU split with the top two teams in that division last week.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Eagles currently sit in the No. 6 spot in the GLIAC Tournament seeding picture – two games behind Wayne State and Northern Michigan for fourth place and a chance to host a first-round game on Feb. 28. One more win and the Eagles will clinch their spot in the conference tournament. Last season, Ashland advanced to the GLIAC Tournament championship game for the first time in school history.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles were impressive on both ends of the floor in a 69-62 win over Lake Superior State last Thursday as the Eagles led wire-to-wire. Ashland shot 58 percent from the floor while holding the Lakers to a 36 percent mark. The only downside to the Eagles' offensive efficiency was their season-high 24 turnovers. AU forced all-region guard Akaemji Williams to shoot just 6-for-21 from the field with seven turnovers. On Saturday, the Eagles dropped a heartbreaker to No. 3 Ferris State, 97-91, in overtime. Sophomore center Drew Noble hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in regulation, but Peter Firlik hit a 45-foot turnaround triple at the buzzer to send the game to overtime where the Bulldogs pulled away.
WENDELL'S NEW MARKS: In Saturday's game against Ferris State, senior forward Wendell Davis hit two new career milestones in an Eagle uniform. He became just the second player in program history to score 500 points in three different seasons, joining the program's all-time leading scorer LeBron Gladden. He also moved up to the No. 3 spot on the school's all-time rebounding list, surpassing Kale Richardson. Davis now ranks in the top three in scoring and rebounding. As Davis continues to pile up impressive counting marks as he closes out his AU career, what may be more impressive is his efficiency as a wing player and primary ball-handler. For his career, Davis is shooting 54 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point range and 77 percent from the free throw line – all marks he has equaled or bested this year. Prior to this season, Davis had made 40 3-pointers in three seasons. This year, he has made a GLIAC-leading 71 threes and is shooting 47 percent from deep.
SERIES VS. LAKERS: The Eagles are 16-18 all-time against Grand Valley State, but have won four of the last five games against the Lakers, including Ashland's 89-80 win over GVSU on Jan. 11 at Kates Gymnasium. Ashland lost its last trip to Allendale last season on Dec. 19, 2016. AU last won at Grand Valley State on Dec. 3, 2015 in a 76-72 overtime game. The matchup prior to that between the teams featured four overtimes in a game AU won, 93-92, at Kates Gymnasium. Head coach John Ellenwood is 5-6 lifetime against the Lakers.
SERIES VS. PRIDE: The Eagles and Pride met for the first time earlier this season with Ashland winning, 78-66, despite trailing by three going into halftime at Kates Gymnasium. Davis and senior forward Marsalis Hamilton combined for 45 points in the game. The Pride are in their first season in the GLIAC and at the Division II level, having made the move from the NAIA ranks. The school is newly formed as a merger between Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central. The school plays its home basketball games between the two campuses in Hammond, Ind. and Westville, Ind.
DREW'S BIG DAY: Noble dropped 26 points and six rebounds in the Eagles' overtime loss to No. 3 Ferris State. He squared off with reigning GLIAC Player of the Year Zach Hankins, who managed 23 points and eight rebounds. Noble hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in regulation. The Bulldogs played well off the sophomore at the 3-point arc in an effort to stop drives by Davis and Hamilton, but Noble opened up his arsenal by knocking down three treys in the game. Noble is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds this season.
SELL'S WEEKEND: Hamilton put together a nice couple games against the Lakers and Bulldogs, averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 75 percent (12-16) from the field and 82 percent (9-11) from the line. In his final season, he is averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists and leads the team with a 54.1 field goal percentage. He is also seventh in the GLIAC, shooting 80.2 percent from the line.
BEN SLICING & DICING: Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway has been finding his offense with his ability to beat defenders of the dribble and was extremely efficient on that end of the floor last week. He averaged 14.5 points while shooting 73 percent (11-15) from the floor. Haraway connected on all three of his 3-point attempts against Lake Superior State when he scored 18 points in 39 minutes.
NEARING A MILESTONE: Haraway is getting close to scoring his 1,000th career point and is sitting at 980 for his career. He won GLIAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2015 while playing for Malone. He scored 379 of his points with the Pioneers and now has 601 at Ashland. Davis (1,837) and Hamilton (1,101) have already hit the four-digit total in their careers.
D-FENCE: The Eagles maintain the 18th-ranked scoring defense in the nation, giving up just 66.5 points per game. Last week, the Eagles forced Lake Superior State to shoot just 36 percent from the field and held the Lakers to 62 points. Ferris State shot 49 percent and had 76 points at the end of regulation before scoring 15 of their 21 overtime points at the free throw line.
WINNING INDICATORS: There are a few statistical marks that, when the Eagles hit them, they are very likely to win. Ashland is 11-0 when it holds its opponent to under 35 percent shooting from 3-point range. Saturday's loss to Ferris State was the first time Ashland had lost all season when it led with five minutes left in regulation. AU held a 10-point at that point against the Bulldogs.
BEVO FRANCIS WATCH LIST: Small College Basketball announced last month 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.