The Ashland University men's basketball team pounded the glass and was efficient offensively as the Eagles opened GLIAC play with an 82-68 win over Lake Superior State at Kates Gymnasium on Thursday (Nov. 29) night.
Redshirt-sophomore wing Aaron Thompson had a career night, going for 27 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. He shot 10-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 at the line. His previous career high in scoring was 14 points.
The Eagles (5-0, 1-0 GLIAC) opened the game on a 15-3 run through the first six minutes as their defense forced the Lakers (2-3, 0-1 GLIAC) to miss seven of their first eight shots.
LSSU was able to turn that around later in the first half and eventually took the lead with nine minutes left as the visitors' zone defense caused problems for the Eagles.
Ashland stabilized to push its lead out to eight points after Thompson's layup with 52 seconds left, but the Lakers closed with a 5-0 burst to trail 37-34 going into halftime.
Last week against Seton Hill, the Eagles saw their 12-point halftime lead slip to two points in the first five minutes of the second half. On Thursday, Ashland won those first five minutes and led by a 49-39 count with 15 minutes left.
"We came out of the locker room better than the game before," said head coach John Ellenwood, who is in his 10th season. "That stretched the lead, gave us some confidence. The middle of the half we extended it as well."
Junior guard Rodrick Caldwell dropped in a 3-pointer to stretch the advantage to 53-39 with 13:38 to play and three-point plays by Thompson and senior guard Ben Haraway kept the lead in double digits with seven minutes to go. The margin never went under 11 points the rest of the way.
Thompson was a handful on both ends of the floor, using an array of drives through the LSSU zone and collecting nine rebounds in the first half alone. He scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half.
"A lot of those points are coming in the flow of the game and from good passes from my teammates doing the dirty work," Thompson said.
It was Caldwell's offense that kept the Eagles cruising in the first half, scoring 12 of his 21 points before halftime. He was 5-for-9 from 3-point range in the game.
"I'm just playing my game and being aggressive," Caldwell said. "I practice those shots so when I get in the game, I have confidence I can make them."
Haraway filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in 37 minutes. Junior center Drew Noble recorded 10 points and seven rebounds while sophomore forward Derek Koch finished with six points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
The Eagles shot a season-best 59.6 percent (31-for-52) from the field and connected on 43.8 percent (7-for-16) from long range. Ashland dominated the glass by a 38-18 count.
Rog Stein paced the Lakers with 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go along with four steals.
The Eagles will wrap their GLIAC opening weekend on Saturday (Dec. 1) when defending national champion Ferris State pays a visit for a 3 p.m. tip-off.