ASHLAND — The young Ashland University men's basketball team did a lot of growing up on Thursday (Dec. 8) night.In the first home Great Midwest Athletic Conference game of the young 2022-23 season, the Eagles earned their first league win of the campaign, 68-50, over Walsh at the Sherrill Hudson Court at Kates Gymnasium."Just because you are young, doesn't mean you can't lead," said Ashland head coach John Ellenwood. "We're trying to build that in our guys right now, because I like our team. I like how it is made up. They have something special in them, and I tell them that all the time."We're hard on them right now, because we have to keep them focused on every day getting better."Ashland improves to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference, while the Cavaliers, the prohibitive preseason favorites in the Great Midwest, are 4-3, 1-1.
The two teams were in a feeling-out process early, and Walsh had a 6-2 lead through the first four minutes. At a 9-4 deficit, the Eagles came alive, going on a 12-0 run for a 16-9 lead at the second media timeout of the contest.
Ashland's run ended at 14-0, then the Eagles kept putting their foot on the gas, taking a 26-14 lead outside of the nine-minute mark of the opening half. Walsh went on a run of its own, this one a 9-0 spurt to make it a 28-23 game.
In all at halftime, the Cavalier run after being down 12 points was 18-5, and Walsh led at the break, 32-31. Neither team shot a high percentage in the first 20 minutes (AU 40.0, Walsh 34.3), but senior guard Brandon Haraway (13 points) and fifth-year forward James Manns (11 points) already were in double figures.
"We weren't happy. They made a great run on us," said Ellenwood. "We needed to focus a little bit harder."
Trailing 38-35 at the first media timeout of the second half, Ashland began another run, and the 7-0 run put the Eagles ahead 42-38. It was an 11-3 run, and a 46-41 AU lead, when Walsh called timeout with 11:13 left in regulation.
Ashland kept coming, and its largest lead to that point was 13 points at 54-41 inside of the seven-minute mark. Walsh went almost six minutes without a basket. The Eagles eventually led by 21 points at 66-45, and went on to win from there.
Haraway led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting, to go with five rebounds and two assists. He moved up two spots to 19th on Ashland's all-time scoring list with 1,184 career points.
Manns finished with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, and freshman point guard Simon Wheeler chipped in with 10 points, three rebounds, six assists and four steals.
"We came together as a team at halftime," Wheeler said. "All our games have been close. Today, we decided to stand for something, and keep our hometown our hometown. We were on the verge of being 2-5, and we couldn't have that."
Ashland's 60.9-percent shooting in the second half allowed the Eagles to finish at 49.1 percent from the field for the game. Walsh made just 31.0 percent from the field, and just 26.1 percent in the final 20 minutes.
UP NEXTAshland will return to its home floor on Saturday (Dec. 10) at 3 p.m. against Northwood (1-8, 1-2). It will be the Lebron Gladden Team Room Dedication and Alumni Day.
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Eagle men earn first league win of new season over Walsh Cavaliers