DETROIT — If the Detroit Titans are to repeat as Horizon League champions, they’re going to need a great defense.
The Titans took a step in that direction Friday night in their season opener against Northern Michigan at Calihan Hall.
Although the 88-53 victory might stand out for the number of points scored by the Titans, it was the number of points they allowed — especially early in the game — that set the tone.
Before the Wildcats could even get comfortable, the Titans had shot off to a 24-3 lead with 11:40 left in the first half. All three of the Wildcats’ first three points came off of free throws.
The Wildcats did not record a field goal until T.J. Cameron made a three-pointer midway through the first half.
“It was a good defensive effort by us,” coach Ray McCallum said. “That’s the thing that really stands out. I thought we really locked in defensively.
“You look at the numbers. Anytime you hold an opponent under 60 points, that’s good. We made strides there.”
In the first half, the Wildcats only managed to shoot 28 percent. Although they did a little better in the second half, shooting 38 percent, for the game it was just 33.3 percent.
Wildcats freshman guard Terry Nash had a miserable time because of the Titans, turning the ball over 10 times. Although he had the most, Nash wasn’t alone. In all, the Titans forced the Wildcats into 25 turnovers.
“We wanted to pressure the ball and get out in the passing lanes,” coach McCallum said. “We’re still trying to establish our identity and we did.
“When we went to the bench, we had guys that brought energy and gave us a great effort there.”
All those turnovers led to a lot off easy offense for the Titans.
The Titans had 30 of their 88 points off of turnovers, compared to just nine points off turnovers for the Wildcats.
Senior forward Doug Anderson made the most of it, scoring 25 points, plus collecting nine rebounds and five steals, all team highs. Ray McCallum had 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.
“It was great to see Doug get nine rebounds, play with great energy and emotion,” coach McCallum said. “We just feed off of his activity. That was a great effort by him.”
The Titans are not the biggest team, but they managed to out-rebound the Wildcats 40-36. That’s going to have to be a team effort, according to coach McCallum.
“We need to have one or two guys step up and get 10 rebounds,” coach McCallum said. “Juwan (Howard) had eight rebounds in our last ballgame. We’re going to have to do it collectively. We call it gang rebounding by committee. Everyone has to be involved.”
For Titans fans, seeing senior forward Nick Minnerath on the floor was a welcome sight. Minnerath had his season cut short last year after he suffered a torn ACL in his fifth game.
Minnerath only scored four points, none more emphatic than a dunk he had that gave the Titans their biggest first-half lead, 40-17 with 2:12 remaining in the half.
“Nick has really done a great job in working to get back from the ACL tear,” coach McCallum said. “He didn’t have the offensive game (Friday) that we’re accustomed to, but I thought he really set the tone for us defensively, threw his body around.”
Also making his presence felt after sitting out last year after transferring from Western Michigan was Juwan Howard, Jr.
Howard had 12 points (all on three-pointers), five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“What you’re seeing is, he’s getting a feel for the game at this level again and the game time,” coach McCallum said. “We’ve asked him to do a lot of the little things in terms of defending and rebounding, using that body. It was good to see him get some threes down.”
After the tuneup from Northern Michigan of the GLIAC, the Titans will now face St. John’s of the Big East in New York on Tuesday.