College basketball has its fair share of surprises. Usually they don't happen until the buzzer-beaters and Cinderella stories of March. But occasionally, something will happen during a game, even as subtle as a player coming off the bench, that will surprise everyone. Eli Holman had been "granted a leave of absence" (a nicer way of saying he was suspended) from the team for an altercation that took place at a frat house that gave one UD Mercy student stitches and Holman misdemeanor assault charges. But during Thursday's game, Holman made his first appearance of the season for the UD Mercy Titans (4-6) at home against the Western Michigan Broncos (1-6).
Holman was likely dressed and inserted to counteract the size of Western Michigan. WMU's center, 6-foot-9, 290-pound Matt Stainbrook, had been averaging 15.4 points per game and seven rebounds per game. The Titans' backup center, LaMarcus Lowe (coincidentally, a former Bronco), had not been providing the inside presence for the Titans they had with Holman in seasons past averaging only seven points and four rebounds a game.
The Titans were able to capitalize on a slow start and costly mistakes by WMU to jump out to an early 24-10 lead. WMU appeared to be sluggish coming out of the game, but understandably so. The Broncos were coming off of a much needed one-week layoff following an 0-6 start where they spent more than two straight weeks on the road, with trips to Brookings, S.D., San Juan, P.R., and Spokane, Wash. Hope those coaches have their frequent-flyer accounts in order!
At about four minutes to go in the first half, coach McCallum inserted freshmen guard P.J. Boutte into the game, which just happened to be at a time when Holman was on the court. Boutte recently was arrested on charges of illegally possessing a stun gun. This meant for a short time, the Titans had two alleged criminals on the court simultaneously. Holman made up for lost time, as he was able to attack inside and in transition to dunk the ball on at least four separate occasions. UD Mercy entered the half with a 19-point lead.
But if college basketball teaches us anything, it's that no matter how well things are going, you still have to play the second half!
The second half was a completely different game. The game turned into a basketball rendition of dueling banjos at the point guard position. UD Mercy PG Ray McCallum, Jr., who was quiet in the first, was able to explode for the remainder of his 15 points and six assists. Pretty much par for the course for the sophomore preseason all-conference point guard.
But the night belonged to another Detroit native. The pride of Detroit Finney high school, Western Michigan senior point guard Mike Douglas had the mantra of someone who demanded the weight of the team be put on his shoulders to carry them to victory that night. Douglas scored a career-high 33 points, with five rebounds, three assists, and 13-of-14 from the free throw line! If there was ever a player who needed to be nominated for the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week Award, it would hands-down be Mikey Douglas. The moves he was making in the second half were sometimes enough to draw a triple-team in the paint. But the Titans could not deny Douglas, as he would score almost at will with runners and reverse layups that would follow jukes and dekes that would make even Barry Sanders say "damn!".
But in the end, it was too little, too late for the Broncos. The comeback from almost 25 down was not to be that night, as their hot second half was not able to overcome the rejuvenated Titans. With Holman back playing, it will be interesting to see how the lack of playing time will affect the 6-foot-10 big man. Especially following the departure of forward Nick Minnerath due to injury for the season, it will be interesting to see how the Titans handle best the post players the Horizon League has to offer.
As for Western Michigan, if there was ever a team that just needed to get into conference play, it's the Broncos. WMU has essentially a murderer's row of a non-conference schedule, with contests against Temple, Iona, Purdue, Gonzaga, Milwaukee, and vaunted Duke. If the Broncos can survive their non-conference schedule, coach Steve Hawkins will know just how tough his team this year really is.
at DETROIT 92, WESTERN MICHIGAN 81 12/08/2011
WESTERN MICHIGAN 1-7 (0-0) -- F. Whitfield 5-11 0-0 10; M. Douglas 10-19 13-14 33; D. Ward 7-20 0-1 19; N. Hutcheson 3-7 4-4 11; M. Stainbrook 0-3 3-4 3; D. Brown 2-3 0-0 5; S. Whittington 0-0 0-0 0; A. Richie 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-64 20-23 81. DETROIT 5-6 (0-2) -- C. Simon 5-11 9-11 20; J. Calliste 5-7 1-4 12; D. Anderson 1-5 2-2 4; R. McCallum 4-9 6-7 14; E. Holman 10-14 1-2 21; L. Lowe 3-6 3-4 9; D. Foster 2-4 0-0 4; P. Boutte 0-0 1-2 1; E. Bruinsma 3-6 1-1 7. Totals 33-62 24-33 92.
Three-point goals: WMU 7-21 (D. Ward 5-13; M. Douglas 0-2; N. Hutcheson 1-2; D. Brown 1-2; M. Stainbrook 0-1; A. Richie 0-1), UDM 2-8 (C. Simon 1-3; D. Foster 0-1; J. Calliste 1-1; E. Bruinsma 0-1; R. McCallum 0-2); Rebounds: WMU 33 (D. Ward 7), UDM 33 (E. Holman 7); Assists: WMU 9 (M. Douglas 3), UDM 18 (R. McCallum 6); Total Fouls -- WMU 22, UDM 22; Fouled Out: WMU-D. Brown; UDM-None.