The No. 10-ranked and undefeated Ashland University men's basketball team starts the calendar year this week by resuming GLIAC play against cross-divisional foes Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.
BACK IN THE GLIAC: The Ashland University men's basketball team jumps back into conference play this week with a couple tough games against GLIAC North opponents – Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan. They are the Eagles' first league games since sweeping a road weekend at Grand Valley State and Davenport Dec. 6-8. Last season, Ashland swept the two teams in the Upper Peninsula during a nine-game winning streak for its first sweep of those two teams on the road since 1999-2000.
HOME AT KATES: In a stretch from Nov. 10 to Jan. 9, the Eagles will have played just two games away from Kates Gymnasium. While Ashland has had no trouble winning away from their home court this season, Kates Gymnasium has long been a place where the Eagles have dominated. In his 10 years as head coach, John Ellenwood's teams have a winning percentage of 77.7 with a record of 108-31 at Kates Gymnasium. This season, Ashland is 8-0 at home and is riding an 11-game home winning streak dating to last season.
11 STRAIGHT: The Eagles have now won 11 straight games after beating Kentucky Christian and Westminster on either side of Christmas break. It is the second-best start in program history, trailing the 1990-91 season in which they won their first 15 games and eventually qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
ELITE COMPANY: The Eagles are one of just nine teams in Division II still sitting without a loss. Bellarmine, ranked No. 1 in the nation, is the only other undefeated team in the Midwest Region. There are only 19 teams in all divisions of the NCAA still undefeated (four in Division I and six in Division III).
IN THE TOP 10: In the last release of the NABC Division II Coaches' Poll, which came on Dec. 21, the Eagles were placed at No. 10. That marks Ashland's first top 10 ranking since the poll on March 1, 2016. The last time the Eagles were in single digits in the national poll was in February 1991. Ashland is the only GLIAC team listed in the NABC poll. In the D2SIDA men's basketball poll, AU comes in tied at No. 16. Both polls will resume weekly Tuesday releases, beginning Jan. 7.
LAST LOOK AT CHRISTMAS BREAK: The Eagles won their 10th and 11th straight games around Christmas break, with dominant performances against Kentucky Christian and Westminster (Pa.). The Eagles throttled KCU, 110-56, on Dec. 19 and returned from break to beat Westminster, 87-64, on Dec. 29. The Eagles held those teams to a combined 32 percent (44-138) shooting and beat those teams on the glass by a combined 102-76. Junior center Drew Noble and senior guard Ben Haraway each scored in double figures in both games and Ellenwood was able to get his reserve unit quality minutes off the bench.
DEFENSIVE REPUTATION: In the 2017-18 season, the Eagles finished ranked 18th in Division II in scoring defense, giving up just 66.3 points per game. This season, the Eagles are up to eighth nationally in defense, allowing just 62.7 points per game. Only Michigan Tech ranks better in scoring defense in the GLIAC. Additionally, the Eagles are holding opponents to just 38.8 percent shooting and 29.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.
SERIES VS. HUSKIES: The Eagles are 11-17 all-time against Michigan Tech, while the teams have split their last 10 meetings overall. Ashland defeated the Huskies, 73-62, last season in Houghton to start calendar year 2018. Michigan Tech won on its last trip to Kates Gymnasium on Jan. 5, 2017, 80-71. The teams have met three times in the GLIAC Tournament with Michigan Tech winning all three matchups.
SERIES VS. WILDCATS: The Eagles are riding a six-game winning streak against Northern Michigan into this week's game and they hold a 17-9 all-time record against Wildcats. The Eagles beat Northern Michigan twice last season. The first came Jan. 6 with a 55-54 decision in Marquette in which Noble hit two clutch free throws to make it a two-possession game before an NMU 3-point heave made it a one-point final margin. In the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal at Kates Gymnasium, the Eagles overcame a 22-point second half deficit and outscored the Wildcats, 18-7, in overtime to defeat Northern Michigan in a memorable postseason win, 83-72.
INTO THE POST: Offensively the past couple weeks, the Eagles have been going to a steady diet of Drew Noble in the post and the 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio product has taken advantage. He is averaging 17.5 points and seven rebounds in the last four games. Noble also has multiple assists in each of his last six contests. He scored a career-high 33 points on just 18 shots in Ashland's 91-88 win over defending national champion Ferris State on Dec. 1. He ranks second on the team in scoring (16.1) and third in rebounding (6.5) and assists (2.4).
A.T. DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Redshirt-sophomore wing Aaron Thompson posted his fourth double-double of the season in AU's win over Westminster last Saturday, putting up 16 points and matching a career high with 15 rebounds. He also came up with four steals and blocked two shots in the game. He has six games of 10-plus rebounds on the season and is the GLIAC leader in rebounding (9.4 per game). Thompson is also shooting 59 percent (46-78) from the field on the season. He ranks 10th in the GLIAC in steals (1.7 per game).
RUNNING THE POINT: Last Saturday's game against Westminster marked the first time this season junior guard Rodrick Caldwell did not score in double figures (nine points) and was just the second game in which he did not hit a 3-pointer. That does not mean he was not effective. He still matched a career high with eight assists and has averaged six in the last three games against just two total turnovers (9.0 assist/turnover ratio). He leads the team in scoring (16.9) and is tied for sixth in the GLIAC with 31 3-pointers.
EVERY DAY HARAWAY: The Eagles can pretty much bank on getting solid production from fifth-year senior guard Ben Haraway every time he steps on the floor. The Norwalk, Ohio product has scored between eight and 18 points each game, scoring in double figures in each of his last eight games. He is shooting 48.2 percent (55-114) from the field this season and ranks third on the team in scoring (12.6). He also has 30 assists and just 12 turnovers in 32.9 minutes per game.