DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The University of Detroit Mercy campus is celebrating Wednesday morning, as the Titans’ men’s basketball team punches its March Madness ticket. U-D Mercy beat Valparaiso 70 – 50 in the Horizon League Tournament finals.
Ray McCallum Jr. scored 21 points, Jason Calliste scored 17 points and LaMarcus Lowe added 14 for the Titans, who qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.
Shooting guard Chase Simon said there’s a certain satisfaction in celebrating a win on your opponent’s court.
“On the opposing team’s court, you know, it felt good to play in that type of atmosphere and just to win on another team’s court was great. There were a lot of challenges throughout the way but we just stayed focused and stayed together and came out with the win,” said Simon.
Detroit (22-13) had lost both regular-season meetings with the Crusaders and trailed this game by three at halftime. The third-seeded Titans shot 58 percent in the second half to advance.
Kevin Van Wijk led Valparaiso with 17 points. Ryan Broekhoff, the conference player of the year, added 13 points for the Crusaders (22-11).
Valparaiso was seeking its first NCAA bid since 2004. The Crusaders automatically qualified for at least an NIT bid after winning the league’s regular-season title.
Valparaiso rolled to an early 23-14 lead, holding Detroit to 25-percent shooting during that stretch. Van Wijk, the Crusaders’ No 2 scorer, went down with a thigh bruise with 3:59 left in the first half. He had scored 12 points when he was injured and Valpo led 25-18.
Valparaiso led 27-24 at halftime and 31-25 early in the second half before McCallum scored seven points during an 11-0 run to give Detroit a 36-31 lead.
Van Wijk made a 3-pointer that cut Detroit’s advantage to 44-42, though he came up hobbling again.
McCallum’s steal and layup gave Detroit a 49-42 lead with just over six minutes to play, and a 3-pointer by Calliste pushed the lead to 10 and forced Valpo to call timeout. The Crusaders never challenged the rest of the way.
WWJ Newsradio 950’s Stephanie Davis was at U of D as fans took off to watch the road game.
Among the fans gathered at U-D to watch the road game was Jim Lucas, who graduated from U of D in 1963.
“It reminds me of the old days, you know, the Bushes – Charlie North games, back in the day when you couldn’t get in this place. It’s almost that spirit again,” said Lucas.
Another alumni member, Matt Shafer from Grosse Pointe, was there with his teenage son, William.
“It’s a long time coming – We’re really excited,” said Shafer.
Abram Campbell, a senior at U of D, was among the four busloads of fans who traveled to Indiana for the game.
“It’s really nice knowing that we have a school that didn’t really do much in the Horizon League Tournament and now, my senior year, finally we are getting some progress. It’s really nice,” said Campbell.
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