Sunday, February 3, 2019

Youngstown State Penguins 72 at Detroit Mercy Titans 70 (NCAA Basketball, Horizon League) - February 2, 2019

If you read my previous post on the Leafs in Detroit, you know that I cancelled an October trip to see that matchup, rescheduling for the first weekend in February. One of the benefits of that change was that this trip happened during college basketball season, and the University of Detroit Mercy had a game on Saturday afternoon, allowing me to see it before my evening flight home.

The Titans play out of Calihan Hall, opened in 1952 as the Memorial Building and later named after former Titans All-American and their winningest coach Bob Calihan. The venue is located on campus, with the entrance off McNichols Road leading to a parking lot where you will pay $5. If you want to avoid that charge, drive a block or two further east and you should be able to find free parking on the residential streets.

The ticket office is to the left of the main entrance, and $10 will get you a GA seat upstairs. The lower level seats are just benches, so the cheaper ticket is also the more comfortable one. With capacity of 7,917 and attendance less than 2,000, you won't be cramped regardless of where you sit.

I took a spot on the west side with the cameras a few feet to my right (view below). Despite this being a rather mundane Horizon League matchup, it was available on ESPN3. Note that the court is named for Dick Vitale, who coached here for four seasons and spent one as the athletic director before leaving to coach the Pistons.

Although Detroit Mercy is not a well-known school, even in Motown (several residents were unaware that there is another Detroit basketball team besides the Pistons), the athletics program has had some successes and these are commemorated inside the main entrance.

There is also a Hall of Fame here, with some surprising names such as Ted Marchibroda, who led the country in passing in 1952 (with 1,813 yards, exactly 4,020 yards less than the current record set by Texas Tech's B.J. Symons in 2003). The concession stand is also found here, with limited selection that is reasonably priced at least.

Don't stop there, however. Walk down the narrow hall (below) on the east side of the building.

There you will find some trophies on display, including a national title for team fencing in 1972 (below). I don't like the way the NCAA treats the athletes, but at least every sport receives the same trophy. At one end of the trophy cases is an academic honour roll, but it doesn't seem to have been updated since 2012.

As you walk up the west hallway back to the main entrance, you will pass by the Titans locker room, which has some past accomplishments listed as inspiration. I'm not sure that the NIT Final Four is that inspirational, but seeing those Hall of Famers should be.

Inside the seating bowl, both end zones have banners, with those above the south side denoting conference titles and retired numbers in basketball...

...while the north side presenting achievements by all sports, including that NIT Final Four, standing out in white.

Overall, Calihan Hall is a surprisingly enjoyable place to watch a college hoops contest. Lots of history, cheap tickets, and plenty of space to stretch out is all I need to consider the venue a win, but having an entertaining game helps too. And this one was definitely that.

The Game

The Youngstown State Penguins were in town to take on the Titans in Horizon League action. The player to watch was Detroit's #0, Antoine Davis (shooting below), a freshman who was second in the country in scoring at 27.1 PPG.

Early on, Davis hit a couple of treys and it was announced that he had set a new record for fastest freshman to hit 100 three-pointers, doing so in his 22nd game. The overall record for threes by a freshman is 122 by Steph Curry, and it looks very likely that Davis will pass Curry in the next couple of weeks. But even with Davis' hot hand, the Penguins kept pace, and a late three pointer from Darius Quisenberry sent them to the half down 37-35.

The second half saw several ties and lead changes, and Detroit had a 67-65 lead when Lamar Hamrick sunk a shot to double the advantage with 2:24 left. On that play, Titan Derrien King lost his shoe. As the teams ran down the court, Titan assistant coach Eric Devendorf, who starred at Syracuse, tossed the shoe down the court in an effort to get it to King. Big mistake. The refs called a technical and Quisenberry made both shots and the Penguins retained possession. Quisenberry then missed a shot, but Naz Bohannon grabbed the offensive board and made the easy layup to tie the game at 69 with 1:46 to go. Hamrick made 1 of 2 free throws after being fouled on the ensuing possession, and the teams then traded missed shots and turnovers as the clock ran down, leaving 23 seconds as Youngstown State took possession and called their final timeout. The Penguins then ran a perfect play that resulted in a wide-open Devin Morgan draining the go-ahead three from the corner. Despite having timeouts left, the Titans ran the ball up the court and Davis missed a contested three. John Sally Jr. grabbed the rebound for Youngstown State and they managed to kill another 8 seconds before Sally was fouled. He missed the front of the 1-and-1 and the Titans finally called timeout with 1.2 seconds left. Of course, that was not enough time to get a decent shot off, and the Penguins escaped with the unexpected win 72-70.

This was a fun game for so many reasons. The refs let them play (only 26 fouls), there were 11 lead changes and 10 ties, and a wayward shoe toss was the determining factor. I've seen a lot of games over the years, but none have been decided by footwear before. The lesson: tie your shoes properly!


That night, the Leafs beat the more famous Penguins 3-2 a day after losing to Detroit by that same score. See how the sports world ties everything together?

This was my 81st NCAA basketball venue. However, several of those were for neutral site tournaments, while others were temporary arenas, Division II or III, or women's games. So I've only seen 65 current venues in NCAA Division I men's basketball, meaning there are 288 still to go.

Next Up

A day trip to Philadelphia to complete the college schools there with a visit to Finneran Pavilion for defending champs Villanova and college venue #82. Check back on Thursday for a report.



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