LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Dick Vitale created a buzz, and the Detroit Titans took advantage of it.
Ray McCallum Jr. had 21 points and Chase Simon scored 20 to help Detroit beat St. John’s 69-63 on Monday night in front of a season-high 5,377 fans in the Motor City.
The Titans (4-6) started and finished strong, playing off the energy created by the school unveiling Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall before the game. The ESPN analyst coached Detroit from 1973-77 and was athletic director during the next season at the school.
“What a great night for Detroit basketball,” coach Ray McCallum Sr. said. “The Dick Vitale Court dedication was special and it brought a lot of enthusiasm to the evening. I’m glad our guys were able to feed off the event.”
Detroit scored the first eight points of the game. After the Red Storm took its first — and only — lead midway through the first half, the Titans went on a 14-2 run to take a 32-21 lead at halftime.
St. John’s (4-5) started the second half with a 9-0 surge to pull within two points, but Detroit responded with a burst of its own to take a 43-34 lead midway through the second half and stayed in control with shots, stops and free throws.
Some fans rushed the court after the final buzzer.
“This is probably the biggest win we’ve had in a while,” said Simon, a senior with the Titans. “The energy got us pumped, and we didn’t want to let everybody down.”
Moe Harkless scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds, reserve D’Angelo Harrison had 15 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer, playing in his hometown, added 10 for St. John’s.
“There are a lot of positives to build on,” said Red Storm assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who filled in for Steve Lavin. “I did like our fight, particularly in the second half.
“We don’t like the taste of losing, but give full credit to Detroit on what was a special night for them.”
Lavin is recovering from prostate cancer surgery and has missed the team’s last three games.
Dunlap said he doesn’t know when Lavin will be back on the bench.
“He’s doing a lot better, his energy level is better,” Dunlap said. “I talk to him frequently and he said he was sorry he couldn’t be here. He’s particularly close with coach Vitale, that’s why he took this game to come in here.”
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