BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – The Ashland University men's basketball team cut a 19-point second-half deficit down to five points, but could not get over the hump against No. 2 Ferris State, falling to the Bulldogs, 85-66, on Saturday (March 2) afternoon at Jim Wink Arena in the GLIAC Tournament semifinals.
The Eagles (20-10) finished with at least 19 wins for the third straight season and qualified for their third straight GLIAC Tournament final four.
On Saturday, the Eagles held a 9-7 lead after a bucket by senior forward Wendell Davis with 13 minutes left in the first half, but the Bulldogs (31-1) scored the next eight points to take a lead they would not relinquish.
"Ferris State is a great team. I don't know a better team in the country," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "We gave them a fight today and it just wasn't enough. I'm proud of our guys, the way they fought hard. We could have folded at the start of the second half, but we got it down to five. Going through the season we've gone through, we wanted to play the best on their floor and see if we were good enough, and Ferris State is a heckuva team. I hope they go win the whole thing."
Davis' basket with 10:48 left cut the margin to 15-13, but the Bulldogs again went on a run to make it 22-13.
Two free throws by redshirt-junior Ben Haraway with just over a minute remaining before halftime made it 35-30, but Ferris State, the top seed in the tournament, scored the last five points of the half to take a 40-30 lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the break, the deficit quickly ballooned to 19 points, but the Eagles – much like in their game against Northern Michigan on Wednesday – slowly chipped away with defensive stops and efficiency on the offensive end.
"The biggest thing was staying with the game plan and keep fighting," said Davis, who finished with 12 points and five assists. "I think we got down 19 at one point and we kept breaking the huddle, 'win, win, win.' We just didn't have enough in the tank to get through the last five minute stretch and pull it out. Ferris State is a great team and to beat them at their place, you have to bring your 'A' game."
Haraway drained a 3-pointer with 14:49 left before senior center Teddy Metzen sank two straight triples in the span of a minute to make it 58-47. Haraway scored five straight points for Ashland to make it 64-59 with 7:30 left, but the Eagles were not able to continue to get stops.
"Ferris does a great job making you play different than you have all year," said Haraway. "When you play Ferris State you have to come up with a game plan that's different. They do a great job doing that and we tried to play through it."
On two more occasions, the Eagles cut the margin to five points with Thompson and Haraway getting baskets, but Ashland was able to manage just one more field goal the rest of the way as the Bulldogs closed the game on a 17-3 run.
Haraway led the Eagles with 14 points and five assists. He did not have a turnover in 38 minutes. Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton added 13 points.
Davis ended his illustrious career with 1,941 points – second on Ashland's all-time list – and third on the all-time rebounding list (769).
Metzen was the fourth Eagle in double figures, scoring a season-high 11 points and knocking down three 3-pointers. Redshirt-freshman wing Aaron Thompson was impressive again with eight points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Noah King led the Bulldogs with 24 points and sank seven 3-pointers while GLIAC Player of the Year Zach Hankins added 21 points, five rebounds and five blocks. Ferris State shot 56 percent from the field.