Detroit wins Horizon tournament opener

DETROIT — As Doug Anderson goes, so does the energy of the Detroit Titans.

Before Tuesday’s game, coach Ray McCallum essentially made that proclamation.

“Doug provides a lot of energy and makes big-time athletic plays,” he said. “That can really pick our guys up, give us a spark.”

It was Anderson’s energy that ignited what had become a stagnant second half offensively for the Titans.

It was that same energy that eventually led the charge that would give them the 80-71 victory over Loyola at Calihan Hall in the opener of the Horizon League tournament.

With 4 minutes, 24 seconds to play, the inferno that was Anderson had already scored 16 points.

He had diversified his attack, too, sinking jump shots, hanging runners in traffic, even a layup.

Anderson saw blood in the water.

“I mean, I came into this game with a little more confidence than I had other games because the past few games, I have been doing OK offensively,” Anderson said. “So I tried to come out with that same confidence when I went up against their two big players, which I didn’t do last time.”

Loyola’s best player and Anderson’s check, Ben Averkamp (20 points, eight rebounds), had picked up his fourth foul with a little over 11 minutes to play.

The Titans used Averkamp’s foul-induced trip to the bench as an emotional boost, pushing their lead to 15 with 9:46 to play.

But with less than 5 minutes to play, that boost was running thin.

Joe Crisman hit two free throws to cut Loyola’s deficit to five, 63-58, and those free throws might as well have been a countdown.

With Loyola engaging the Titans in a full-court press, Ray McCallum Jr. (10 points) moved the ball to Chase Simon, who held it for a moment before dribbling a couple of times across mid court. He glanced up, then down into the corner, seeing Anderson on an island, no red jersey in sight.

From nearly half-court, Simon, who finished with 19 points, tossed up a perfect feed toward the upper left corner of the backboard.

Anderson came out of nowhere. He dodged a Loyola defender, jumped around another, yanked the ball off of its planned trajectory and slammed it through the net with enough gusto to provide the culminating note in his own dunking opera.

Anderson finished the game with 18 points, one rebound, one assist, three steals and a soul-crushing, emotional blow to the Loyola.

“These two guys, Doug and Eli (Holman), their physical presence was a big factor in attacking their two bigs, (Walt) Gibler and Averkamp,” coach McCallum said. “They did a good job of getting them in foul trouble from the outset.”

Anderson was far from a one-man band, though. His 18 points were third on his team in scoring.

Eli Holman led the way for the Titans with 20 points and didn’t miss a shot — from the field or the free throw line — until the 5:19 mark of the second half. At that point, he had made his first 13 shots.

“My team really encouraged me throughout the game,” said Holman, the Horizon League’s sixth man of the year. “And I got comfortable with the double team, learned to handle it better.

“I was comfortable, patient with my moves, finding the open guy, if it’s one on one, then taking my guy to the bucket.”

Up next for the Titans is sixth-seeded Youngstown State, a matchup that coach McCallum acknowledges is a tough one.

But he also knows that if Anderson and Holman can create the same combination of athleticism on Friday as they did Tuesday, then the Horizon League should be put on notice.

“That last game came down to the wire,” coach McCallum said of their previous game against Youngstown, a 76-74 Titans road win last Saturday. “Doug had a big second half for us, and Eli was a closer down the stretch.

“We’re familiar with them, they are familiar with us and we get to see them on a neutral court.”