The Ashland University men's basketball team opened the regular season exactly as it wanted to with a 73-55 win over visiting Lake Erie on Friday (Nov. 8) night at Kates Gymnasium.
The Eagles (1-0), ranked No. 19 in the NABC Division II coaches' poll, led from start to finish in an all-around solid effort on opening night. They led by as many as 16 in the first half and 25 in the second half in cruising to the win.
Five AU players scored in double figures, led by senior center Drew Noble, who started his final campaign with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 6-for-8 from the field
The Eagles also closed out defensively exceptionally well, holding Lake Erie to just 30 percent (21-for-69) shooting in the game, including an 18 percent (6-for-34) mark from 3-point range.
"We have a lot of great individual defenders, but at the same time, team defense is really important," Noble said. "We trust each other to help."
The Eagles also committed just 10 fouls on the night as the Storm took just seven free throws.
"That's what Ashland basketball is," said senior guard Rodrick Caldwell, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half. "Coach Ellenwood preaches defense, defense, defense. That's our mindset. The offense will handle itself. We get our offense from our defense."
The Eagles led by 12 at the third media timeout of the first half, getting three 3-pointers from junior forward Derek Koch in that stretch. He finished with 11 points and 10 boards for a double-double.
Redshirt-freshman guard Bryce Drews also connected on his first career 3-pointer with 10 minutes to go in the half.
Ashland stretched the lead to 33-17 on a three-point play by redshirt-junior wing Aaron Thompson, who joined Koch with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards).
In the second half, the lead never got under 15 points as the Eagles maintained their defensive edge throughout the game. Ashland out-rebounded Lake Erie, 45-42.
The Eagles got significant contributions from true freshmen Brandon Haraway and Ethan Conley. Haraway collected seven rebounds from the guard spot and Conley scored 12 points in his debut, knocking down three 3-pointers.
"They played really well," Caldwell said. "I remember my [first game] freshman year and it didn't go so well. With all the jitters, I think they played excellent."
"I love freshmen that can contribute and they just blossom in front of you," said head coach John Ellenwood, now in his 11th season at Ashland. "It's fun to see them go from that recruiting stage to the production stage where they help us build a culture."
Ennis Thomas led the Storm with 14 points in 16 minutes off the bench.
The Eagles will now head to Ohio Dominican on Sunday (Nov. 10) for another in-region game in Columbus. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.