For some odd reason, this game between the Titans of Detroit Mercy and the Phoenix of Green Bay had a weird vibe to it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the fact that UDM has won 5 out of their last 6 games now? Maybe it was the noticeable absence of the UDM dance team? Maybe it was the surprisingly small crowd for a weekend afternoon game? Either way, it just didn't feel like the kind of atmosphere to merit what's been going on with the Titans lately. Despite their poor play and not being able to put a complete game on both ends of the court, the Titans have managed to win a significant amount of games which has put them in position to make some noise in March and peak at the right time of the season.
The Green Bay Phoenix provided quite the test. Second-year head coach Brian Wardle has quite the task at hand carrying 11 underclassmen on his roster. As Green Bay moves away from the tenure of former head coach Tom Kowalczyk (sometimes referred to as the poor man's Coach K), one thing that hasn't changed is the makeup of team. The Phoenix have always been known in mid-major hoops for their size, whether it's four guards who are 6'4" or taller, the 6'9" 265 lbs. center forward, or the 7'1" center with the wingspan to boot.
This game we finally got to see something UDM hasn't done at home all season... play from behind. The Titans played absolutely lazy on defense, didn't hustle back (except for Ray McCallum Jr.), and continued to take horrible shots left and right. When things are going well, the Titans can be unstoppable. But they are their own worst enemy at times. The Titans found themselves down 38-31 at half time.
Adversity is a good way to find out what your team is made of. But unfortunately the same cannot be said about your fans. I've complained about the fans at Callahan Hall in a previous write up. And I always try and look at things objectively, but when the team is losing, the Titan supporters feel that their team can do no wrong and just want to scapegoat the refs. Now I've refereed intermural sports before, and I've got a basic understanding of the game. But you don't need any experience to see that some of the most blatant calls should NOT be argued. One or two close foul calls don't make up for the fact that your team is down over 13 points at home! It's clear that the fans here just want to whine and complain like children when the chips are down.
The Phoenix created some match-up nightmares for UDM. Case in point being the enigmatic #44 Brennan Cougill. At 6 foot 9, 265 lbs., he should be playing offensive line for Green Bay's football team, NOT stepping out to hit 3 of 5 from beyond the arc! Cougill would finish with 11 points (all field goals coming on 3 point attempts). For UDM, their lack of rebounding is what hurt them the most. On defense, they would only be sending 1 or 2 people to the glass, and the rest would be leaking out looking to get theirs in transition.
But one thing can be somewhat admirable about UDM. They did play the game as if they knew their shots were going to fall, as if they knew they were going to make their run, as if they knew they would shoot their average. They continued to play THEIR game, and before you knew it, Chase Simon started to knock down shot after shot, most of them coming off of one-dribble step outs, and finished with 23 points on the day, helping to bring UDM all the way back to take a four point lead.
But Green Bay wasn't out of it yet. With about 5 minutes to go in the game, Coach Wardle threw several curveballs at UDM including going to a small line up and throwing in a few possessions of match-up zone defense. But what frustrated Green Bay the most was their inability to get anything going on offense. Throughout the game, UDM would trap Green Bay's point guard hard off initial screens to force several turnovers. I don't know about you, but I'd probably turn it over if I were being trapped by Ray McCallum Jr. AND 6-10 Center LaMarcus Lowe!
However, the game did come down to the last possession. Despite the lead, UDM gave up 3-pointers on consecutive trips between intentional fouls and the lead was cut to 3. Ray McCallum Jr. had a chance with just 18 seconds to play to seal the win for UDM. But he missed BOTH free throw attempts and the Phoenix had one last gasp. But after missed threes by Cougil and Kam Cerroni, the clock hit zero and the Titans almost gave one away with the final score of 77-74.
This win puts UDM at 9-6 in the Horizon League standings in a 3-way tie for third, and sitting pretty as the Horizon League conference tournament looms ever closer...
at DETROIT 77, GREEN BAY 74 02/12/2012
GREEN BAY 10-14 (6-8) -- B. Cougill 3-6 2-2 11; K. Sykes 6-9 1-1 14; K. Cerroni 4-8 0-0 12; S. Baker 4-7 0-0 11; J. Humphrey 1-4 2-2 4; A. Brown 5-7 3-5 13; A. Armstead 0-2 2-2 2; G. Mays 2-5 1-2 5; T. Johnson 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 25-50 13-16 74. DETROIT 15-12 (9-6) -- C. Simon 7-12 7-8 24; J. Calliste 2-9 5-5 11; R. McCallum 5-15 5-8 15; L. Lowe 4-6 5-5 13; D. Anderson 0-2 0-0 0; E. Holman 4-5 1-1 9; D. Foster 1-3 0-0 2; E. Bruinsma 1-1 0-0 3; P. Boutte 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 23-27 77.
Three-point goals: GB 11-22 (B. Cougill 3-5; T. Johnson 0-2; S. Baker 3-5; K. Cerroni 4-8; A. Armstead 0-1; K. Sykes 1-1), UDM 6-12 (C. Simon 3-4; J. Calliste 2-6; E. Bruinsma 1-1; R. McCallum 0-1); Rebounds: GB 24 (B. Cougill 6), UDM 25 (E. Holman 8); Assists: GB 14 (K. Sykes 5), UDM 12 (R. McCallum 6); Total Fouls -- GB 22, UDM 15; Fouled Out: GB-A. Brown; UDM-L. Lowe.