The Ashland University men's basketball team came out to a 16-2 start and never trailed as the Eagles went wire-to-wire to beat Saginaw Valley, 83-61, on Thursday (Jan. 17) night at Kates Gymnasium.
The Eagles (15-1, 8-1 GLIAC), ranked No. 8 in the NABC Division II coaches' poll, have now won 14 straight games at home, dating back to last season.
Senior guard Ben Haraway started the game with a 3-pointer on the opening possession, followed by a pair of triples by sophomore forward Derek Koch. Redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson then added his own 3-pointer and layup before junior center Drew Noble finished the run with a couple free throws.
"You know everyone's going to go in at Drew, double Drew and give him a lot of attention," said head coach John Ellenwood. "The only way you're going to give him space is to make shots from outside."
Less than four minutes into the game, the Eagles were 5-for-5 from the field, including four treys.
"That was the best we've come out for a game in a long time," said Ellenwood.
The Cardinals (5-11, 2-7 GLIAC) battled back with their own hot shooting and cut the margin to five, 20-15, but Thompson answered with a 3-pointer to make it an eight-point game.
Anthony Lachlan hit two threes for the Cardinals later in the half to cut it to 32-26 as the visitors stayed within arm's reach, 40-33, at halftime after a buzzer-beater by Darnell Hoskins Jr.
SVSU had its deficit down to 40-37 early in the second half and still had it within six, 47-41, with 16 minutes left.
That's when the Eagles locked in defensively, going on a 16-3 run over the next five minutes to take total control of the game with a 63-44 advantage. Ashland held the Cardinals without a field goal for nearly six minutes.
"When you're taking tough shots, which I feel like they were in the first half, eventually you're going to start missing those," said Noble. "You're not going to hit those the whole game. If you do your work defensively, by the end of the game usually you'll come out on top."
Offensively, the Eagles were extremely efficient. They committed just two turnovers in the game (including one in the final minute) while assisting on 16 of their 31 field goals.
Noble led the Eagles with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He was 8-for-14 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the line. Thompson was excellent, hitting both his 3-pointers, and going 10-for-14 for 22 points and six rebounds.
Haraway had 13 points, six boards and four assists while junior guard Rodrick Caldwell chipped in eight points, five rebounds and five dimes.
Myles Belyeu and Hoskins combined for 44 points on 31 shots for the Cardinals. The Eagles held the remainder of the team to just 19 points.
"We did a good job in the second half taking away the options that they were getting in the first half," said Ellenwood.
The Eagles out-rebounded Saginaw Valley, 35-29. Ashland also held a 16-0 advantage on points off turnovers and a 6-0 edge on second chance points.
The Eagles will return to the court on Saturday (Jan. 19) to take on Northwood. Tip-off at Kates Gymnasium is set for 3 p.m.