Ashland University men's basketball returns to G-MAC play against Malone, Walsh

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Ashland University's Derek Koch (40) drives against Wayne State University's Nate Talbot during college men's basketball action on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Kates Gymnasium. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM
Ashland University's Derek Koch (40) drives against Wayne State University's Nate Talbot during college men's basketball action on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Kates Gymnasium. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM

Ashland University's men's basketball team will play its first game in 11 days as it returns to Great Midwest Athletic Conference play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against league-leading Malone at the Sherrill Hudson Court at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles will finish the 2021 calendar year at Walsh at 3 p.m. Friday.

The Eagles' last game prior to the NCAA Division II "dead period" was a last-minute addition to the schedule, a 71-57 loss at NCAA Division I Cincinnati on Dec. 18. The Bearcats had an opening in their schedule due to COVID-19 protocols at Texas Southern. In another schedule change, Ashland's home game against NAIA opponent Wilberforce on Dec. 20 was canceled.

Going into the final week of 2021, Ashland is one of four teams with one loss in league play, one game behind Malone. Ashland has won four consecutive games against the Pioneers and is 31-7 all-time against them.

Malone, coming into the week with a nine-game winning streak, is the Great Midwest pacesetter in scoring offense (86.8 ppg.) and scoring margin per game (plus-13.5 ppg.).

Six Pioneers enter the week averaging double digit points per game — senior guard Bryce Butler (17.1 ppg.), senior guard Justin Miller (16.9 ppg.), junior forward Bo Myers (16.7 ppg.), senior guard Jaret Majestic (13.9 ppg.), junior forward Levi Seiler (10.8 ppg.) and senior forward Marcus Ernst (10.1 ppg.).

The Eagles are winners of three in a row and four of the last five against the Cavaliers. The all-time series shows Ashland with a 15-8 advantage.

Walsh, entering the week having won six of seven, leads the league in field-goal percentage defense (40.2), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (28.4) and rebounds per game (41.3).

The Cavaliers' top three scorers are senior guard Darryl Straughter (14.9 ppg.), sophomore forward Garrison Keeslar (14.4 ppg.) and senior forward Caleb Canter (11.5 ppg.).

Eagles hang tough with D-1 Bearcats

Ashland and Cincy were tied at 16 in the first half before the Bearcats went on an 11-0 run. In the second half, Cincinnati had a 58-33 advantage before the Eagles' late 24-9 run.

"They stretched the lead on us that was pretty wide, and it's tough to keep up with the number of bodies they were throwing at us," said Ashland coach John Ellenwood. "We got it down to 10 late. It was fun just to keep it a ballgame in front of a great crowd. Our guys got better from this game. We'll learn from this and get better moving forward."

Ashland University's Aaron Thompson (5) is defended by Wayne State University's Avery Lewis (33) during college men's basketball action on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Kates Gymnasium. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM
Ashland University's Aaron Thompson (5) is defended by Wayne State University's Avery Lewis (33) during college men's basketball action on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Kates Gymnasium. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM

Aaron Thompson and Larry Aulger, side-by-side

Aulger is the only player in Ashland men's basketball history to grab at least 1,000 career rebounds. Thompson, a senior forward, is 65 boards away from becoming the second.

When Thompson joins the 1,000-rebound club, he also will join Aulger as the only Eagles in the 1,000-1,000 (points-rebounds) club.

Senior forward Derek Koch could hit same milestone twice

Koch, who began his collegiate career at NCAA Division I Bowling Green, has gone past the 1,000-point mark between BG and AU, now at 1,005 career points. With 804 points at Ashland, Koch could hit 1,000 points again, this time solely as an Eagle.

Eagles who are eager to get back to action

Koch has played in just three games so far this season due to injury, but he has scored in double figures every game, has exactly six rebounds in all three contests and dished out a career-high seven assists at the Bearcats.

In four games since returning from Florida, Thompson has grabbed 39 rebounds (9.8 rpg.).

This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: After short break, Ashland men's hoops to face Malone, Walsh

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