Eagles Mount Comeback Over ODU To Win Home Opener, 66-60

Eagles Mount Comeback Over ODU To Win Home Opener, 66-60

The Ashland University men's basketball team stormed back from a nine-point halftime deficit to beat visiting Ohio Dominican, 66-60, on Sunday (Nov. 11) afternoon at Kates Gymnasium in the Eagles' home opener. 

Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half to lead the Eagles (2-0) offensively in his home debut.

Ashland, which shot just 8-for-27 (30 percent) in the first half, came back to shoot 52 percent (13-for-25) from the field after halftime, while loading up defensively against the Panthers (1-1), who won the Great Midwest Athletic Conference title last season.

The Eagles struggled on the offensive end throughout the first half, trailing 30-21 at the break as they went without a field goal for the first five minutes of the game.

"I think we were playing good defense, but at the beginning they were getting all the tough loose balls and they were out-toughing us," said Caldwell. "Once we eliminated that, we got the W."

AU had its deficit down to two, 21-19, with four minutes left in the first half, but the Panthers scored nine of the 11 points to close.

Ohio Dominican quickly took the lead up to 12 with a 3-pointer to start the second half and still maintained a nine-point edge with nine minutes to play.

Ashland climbed back from there, getting buckets from Caldwell, senior forward Phil Frentsos and senior guard Ben Haraway to cut it to 50-47.

Haraway's 3-pointer off a feed from junior center Drew Noble gave Ashland its first lead of the game with 5:43 to play, 51-50.

The Panthers worked it back to a tie game at 52-52 before Frentsos buried a corner 3-pointer, again from Noble, to give Ashland the lead for good.

"We were just saying, 'let's win this game,'" Caldwell said. "Once we had that momentum, we knew it was over. We knew we could win from the beginning, we just started off slow."

The Ashland defense was impenetrable down the stretch. The Panthers went more than eight minutes without a field goal with Ashland also forcing five turnovers in that stretch. By the time Ohio Dominican ended that run with 38 seconds left, the game had already been decided as Caldwell hit four free throws with under a minute to play.

"It's good for us, trying to protect our home court" said redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson. "We know going on the road its tough to get those wins, so we get those first few wins here, we can figure out who we are."

Ashland shot 40 percent (21-for-52) for the game and held the Panthers to a 39 percent (24-for-61) mark. The Eagles held Sam Hickey, who hit seven 3-pointers in Ohio Dominican's season-opening win over Wayne State, to just eight points overall.

Thompson joined Caldwell in double figures with 10 points and six rebounds. Noble was excellent from the post as a facilitator, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds and a career-high six assists.

"We're a young offense in terms of figuring this out and it's going to take time," said 10th-year head coach John Ellenwood. "Where we were three weeks ago is light years better, but it's still going to take time."

Haraway and Frentsos had eight points apiece and sophomore forward Derek Koch finished with six points and six rebounds while struggling with foul trouble in his Kates Gymnasium debut.

The win started a five-game homestand for Ashland, which returns to Kates Gymnasium on Thursday (Nov. 15) for a 7 p.m. tip-off against Ohio Christian.