The Ashland University men's basketball team will look for two wins this week against Purdue Northwest and Parkside.
BACK TO CAMPUS: The Ashland University men's basketball team returns to Kates Gymnasium this week for games against GLIAC North foes Purdue Northwest and Parkside. The Eagles have just five games remaining in the regular season with three left at home. Next week, Ashland travels to Northwood and Saginaw Valley to complete the road portion of its regular season.
WIN #20: The Eagles are seeking their 20th win of the season this week. It would be the 15th time in program history the Eagles hit the 20-win mark and the third time under head coach John Ellenwood. The Eagles were 25-6 overall in the 2015-16 season in which they qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and they were 20-10 last season. It would mark the first time since the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons the Eagles get to 20 wins in consecutive years.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles traveled to Ferris State and Lake Superior State last week for one of the program's toughest road trips of the season. Ashland came away with a split. The Eagles defeated Ferris State, 67-56, last Thursday in Big Rapids, before falling to Lake Superior State, 77-66, in Sault Ste. Marie. The Eagles swept the season series from the Bulldogs, who are the defending NCAA Division II national champions.
ELLENWOOD'S 200: The win over Ferris State was the 200th in the head coaching career of John Ellenwood. He now has a career record of 200-155 and is 167-107 in 10 seasons with the Eagles. His first 33 coaching wins came in three seasons at NCAA Division III school Thomas More College.
DOUBLE DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Redshirt-sophomore Aaron Thompson posted back-to-back double-doubles last week, averaging 15 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the two games. He scored 18 points and collected 15 rebounds in the win at Ferris State and added 12 points and 12 boards against Lake Superior State. The 6-foot-3 Toledo native leads the GLIAC in rebounding at 9.4 per game. He has recorded at least 14 rebounds on five occasions this season. Thompson has shown significant improvement in all areas of his game in his second season on the floor. He has more than doubled his scoring output from a season ago (5.2 to 10.7) and raised his field goal percentage from 46.5 to 54.7. Thompson also is shooting free throws at a 66.2 percent clip this season, up from 57.4 last season. He was a perfect 8-8 from the line last week.
ELLENWOOD AT HOME: Since Ellenwood's appointmet as the Ashland boss, the Eagles have been formidable on their home court. They have lost just 33 games at Kates Gymnasium in 10 seasons and have not lost more than three home games since the 2013-14 campaign.
KOCH COOKING: Sophomore forward Derek Koch had one of his brightest performances of the season last Thursday, scoring 15 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two blocks against the Bulldogs. He connected on a career-high three 3-pointers and helped unlock the Eagles' potent inside-out offense. For the season, Koch is averaging 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
DREW AT CENTER: The Eagles have been able to turn to junior center Drew Noble in the post to initiate a lot of their offense this season. As the season has drawn on, teams continue to raise their focus on Noble and the 6-foot-8 Louisville, Ohio product has turned that into opportunities for his teammates. Noble, the Eagles' leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, also averages 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists game. He dished out four assists at Ferris State, including one on an alley-oop lob to senior forward Phil Frentsos and another to a wide-open Koch for three.
PHIL STEPS IN: Frentsos started both games last week, stepping in for junior guard Rodrick Caldwell against the Bulldogs, and for Koch against the Lakers. They were just his second and third starts of the season. Frentsos averaged eight points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals in the two games while shooting 7-16 from the field. He has been wildly consistent this season as the first man off the bench for Ellenwood. He has scored between six and 10 points in each of the last nine games and has at least three rebounds in 19 of his 23 games played. Frentsos has played 112 games in his career and made six starts.
SERIES VS. PRIDE: The Eagles have only a brief history playing against Purdue Northwest, which joined the GLIAC last season. The Eagles are 3-0 all-time against the school with the Eagles beating PNW on Jan. 12, 81-57. Ashland beat the Pride, 78-66, on their only trip to Kates Gymnasium last season.
SERIES VS. RANGERS: The Eagles' all-time series against Parkside is even more brief as it just started on Jan. 10 with the Rangers' 68-61 win in Kenosha, Wis. That result stopped Ashland's season-opening 13-game winning streak when the Eagles were ranked No. 6 in the nation.
GUARDING THE LINES: The Ashland team identity comes from the defensive side of the floor with the Eagles ranking third in the nation in scoring defense at 62.3 points allowed per game. AU excels at making opposing offenses as inefficient as possible – that means limiting easy 3-point attempts and free throws. To those ends, the Eagles hold up their end of the bargain really well. Ashland ranks second in Division II in fouls committed per game (13). Teams take just 13.1 free throws per game. The Eagles also take away opponents' 3-point shots, allowing just 30.7 percent shooting from long distance – the 10th-best mark in the nation.
ROD FROM DEEP: Caldwell has been the Eagles' top threat from 3-point range this season, hitting 45 triples while shooting 37 percent from deep. He has hit multiple 3-pointers in 13 games this season, and is shooting 7-18 from long range in his last four games. Caldwell also is an excellent free throw shooter, hitting at an 86.4 percent clip.
BEAUGARD DISHING: Freshman guard Dylan Beaugard has found himself in Ellenwood's main rotation the last three games. He had four assists and no turnovers against Grand Valley State two weeks ago and dished out three assists at Ferris State. He averages 9.4 assists per 40 minutes.