Detroit no match for Butler -- yet
DETROIT -- In the overall scheme of things, Friday night's game was more important to the Detroit Titans than it was to the Butler Bulldogs.
Coming into Friday, the two teams were tied with Valparaiso and Wright State for the Horizon League lead with 4-1 records.
Valparaiso beat Wright State in the earlier Friday night game to take temporary sole possession of the lead at 5-1.
The Titans, playing without center Eli Holman because of a one-game suspension for fighting, looked lost at times and the Bulldogs took full advantage, jumping out to a 22-point halftime lead before finishing with an 87-63 victory.
"I think Butler is the most -- in watching and preparing for them -- the most physical team that we were to play up until this point," Detroit Titans coach Ray McCallum said. "They didn't disappoint. They threw their bodies around on the perimeter, on the inside. They played their game and there was nothing that we could do about it.
"I think what it says is where they are right now at the championship level, like they've been for the last couple years, and it just shows that we have a lot of work to do to close the gap."
That is the ultimate goal for the University of Detroit Mercy, to be more like Butler, the team that beat Michigan State in last year's Final Four and gave Duke a run for its money in the championship game.
That kind of success is why Butler coach Brad Stevens, who is an impressive 102-20 in his four seasons at the school, wasn't even thinking about leading the league at this point.
"Way too early," Stevens said. "I've been through a lot of these. It's hard to maintain consistency throughout 18 games. That's why regular season championships are so hard to come by."
McCallum, on the other hand, was thinking about it, despite the fact that a lot of league games remain.
"Coming into this ballgame, we were able to talk about playing for first place, being 4-1, great position to be, what a great scenario playing Butler, runner-up to the national champions, in your building, on ESPNU, on national television," McCallum said. "(It's) Every young player's dream.
"I felt like, to Butler, it was routine, the way they played, the way they executed. It was very impressive the way they were able to dominate inside, outside. Everybody played well for them, I thought.
"It was a struggle for us after the first couple baskets of the game. We were always in catch-up mode and you can't play from behind against a team that is as good as Butler and as experienced as Butler."
The statistics from Friday's game were mind-numbing. The Titans had zero assists and 10 turnovers in the first half and finished with just three assists to 16 turnovers. The Bulldogs had 20 assists on 29 baskets. The Bulldogs had four players with at least six rebounds and ended up with 37 as a team. The Titans were lead by guard Jason Calliste, who had five rebounds, and the team had a total of 26.
The Titans' glaring problem, according to leading scorer Chase Simon (19 points), was team defense. The Bulldogs shot over 53 percent in the first half and 62 percent in the second half, 57 percent for the game.
"The last two meetings with them, that's what kept us in the game and gave us a real good chance to win," Simon said. "We had a lot of slippage and wasn't on cue tonight on defense, something we've got to come back and work on."
Butler's Andrew Smith shot 7-for-11 from the floor, primarily because every basket was an easy layup or dunk. Matt Howard, a 6-8, 230-pound forward, made 5-of-6 shots from three-point range, a career best.
The Titans do not have to wait long to try to make up for their performance against the Bulldogs.
Holman returns to the lineup Sunday afternoon as Detroit faces Valparaiso, tied with Butler atop the Horizon League standings. The game can be seen on FOX Sports Detroit.
Detroit travels to Butler Feb. 12.