Detroit — Statistically speaking, the Detroit Mercy Titans have a lot to work on in the season’s final week.
They made progress in Saturday’s win over Eastern Michigan — only their second victory in eight tries — but more than a few negative trends still persist.
Known for their strong second-half play for most of the season, the Titans have been outscored in the second by an average of 11.6 points per game over their last three contests.
Their once-potent offense has disappeared, as UDM has barely averaged 60 points per game in the past four games.
Don’t expect any help from the free throw line; Detroit has touched the 70 percent mark only once since Jan. 28.
Coach Ray McCallum and the players know that if they want to make a run in the Horizon League tournament, which seemed a reasonable expectation only a month ago, they need to get back to basics and a stat that doesn’t appear in the box score — effort.
“One thing we chart is deflections,” McCallum said. “They’ve been down in the last couple games, but that’s an indication of the kind of effort our guys are giving defensively.”
The Titans will need a maximum defensive effort if they are going to continue with their head-scratching offensive lulls, which include multiple missed lay-ups and botched transition plays.
If anyone is inclined to attribute that to fatigue, brought on by a season’s worth of tough, close games, McCallum will be the first to correct them.
“I don’t want to give into fatigue,” he said. “With the age of these guys, it’s not about fatigue. It’s about mental toughness and pride.”
Senior Woody Payne, who recorded his first career double-double against Eastern Michigan, says the team’s recent struggles are frustrating, but that frustration could fuel their motivational fire as the Titans finish the season on the road.
“Whoever we play, we have to take it personally,” he said.
The Titans will play Cleveland State on Thursday and finish the regular season at Youngstown State on Saturday.
Detroit could finish as high as the fifth seed and as low as the seventh. If the Titans were to finish fifth or sixth, they would host the first-round game — a near-certainty earlier this season.
Either way, Detroit will have a tough road to the championship, but don’t expect McCallum to make any excuses.
“You work all year long for this two-week period,” he said. “You’ve got to want to continue your season. We’ve had some heart-breaking defeats, and we’re trying to show the guys just how close we are. You just have to improve and get better each and every game.”
Michael Martinez is a sophomore communications major at the University of Detroit Mercy. He is sports editor of The Varsity News, the student-run newspaper. You can read his bi-weekly column at www.thevarsitynews.net.