Too much Eli Holman, too many Albany turnovers and too much Detroit pressure defense.
The result was a convincing 66-54 victory for the Titans over the Great Danes in the second round of the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, Saturday at SEFCU Arena.
Holman, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound sophomore forward transfer from Indiana University, scored the first 10 points of the game for the Titans, and finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots. Xavier Keeling, another Indiana transfer, added 21 points and five rebounds.
When Holman wasn’t muscling his way inside, the Titans were scoring off Albany turnovers. The Danes committed 20 turnovers, and the Titans scored 27 points off those miscues.
“We were very quick tonight. I thought our defensive intensity was a huge factor,” said Detroit head coach Ray McCallum. “Albany has got a very good team that has a lot of great sets. Our plan was to heat the ball up, and I thought we did a good job of defending them.”
“They’re good. They’re absolute men,” said Albany head coach Will Brown of the Titans. “Holman and Keeling are very good, but the guy I was most impressed with was Woody Payne, who is the best on-ball defender in their league. They are a big, physical team, and they would win our league. They’ll probably battle Butler for the Horizon league title.”
Albany held a 16-12 lead following a Will Harris three-pointer with 14:29 left in the first half, but the Titans scored the next 15 points to roll out to a 27-16 lead. They stretched their advantage to 34-19 with 5:30 left, but the Danes charged back to slice their deficit to 40-33 at intermission. Redshirt freshman Logan Aronhalt nailed a pair of three-pointers during the comeback.
Jake Lindfors, another redshirt freshman, scored the first three points of the second half as Albany got within four, but Keeling scored six of the Titans’ next seven points to push them in front, 47-38.
A slam dunk off an offensive rebound by Scotty McRae and a free throw by Michael Johnson whittled the Albany deficit to 47-41 with 10:46 to go, but the Titans heated up once again, scoring the next eight points to pull out to a 55-41 cushion. Detroit (3-1) led by as many as 19 (65-46) with 4:19 to go.
“We got within six, but then we had that scoring drought in the second half,” said Brown. “We struggled offensively. It was a combination of our turnovers and us missing some shots.”
Johnson played all 20 minutes of the first half, and finished with 31 minutes. Brown said he didn’t play backup point guards Mike Black or Derrek Tartt in the first half because they were late to the team’s practice session, and he had to send a message.
Johnson had to battle Payne and the rest of the Titans by himself as the primary ballhandler against pressure for much of the game.
“They were pretty tough. No. 11 [Payne], he’d get into you, and the rest of the guys played the passing lanes. But I didn’t mind playing that much, because I want to play all the minutes, anyway. They played more guys than us, and the guys they played played at a higher level,” Johnson said.
Tim Ambrose led Albany (2-3) with 12 points. Johnson added nine points, while Lindfors finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
“We’ve lost to some good teams,” said Brown. “We just need our veteran guys like Will Harris, Tim Ambrose, Mike Johnson and Brett Gifford to be rock solid until the young bucks come along.”
In the other second-round game, Karon Abraham scored 18 points to lead four double-digit scorers as Robert Morris crushed Alcorn State, 107-76. Albany plays Robert Morris today at 5.
Keeling 5-10 10-11 21, Kennedy 1-8 3-4 5, Holman 7-8 6-10 20, Simon 0-3 0-0 0, Lee 1-7 0-0 3, Foster 1-3 0-0 2, Payne 2-6 6-7 10, Stephens 1-2 0-0 3, Blue 1-1 0-0 2, Hoskins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 19-49 25-32 66.
Harris 2-6 1-2 7, Lindfors 3-7 1-2 8, Gifford 1-4 0-0 2, Johnson 2-6 5-6 9, Ambrose 4-9 2-2 12, Aronhalt 2-6 1-2 7, Urli 0-1 0-0 0, Tartt 0-1 0-0 0, Black 0-0 0-0 0, McRae 2-5 2-2 6, Metcalf 0-0 0-0 0, Barraza 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 17-47 12-16 54.
Halftime: Detroit 40-33. Three-point goals: Detroit 3-14 (Keeling 1-2, Kennedy 0-2, Simon 0-1, Lee 1-6, Payne 0-1, Stephens 1-2), Albany 8-18 (Harris 2-3, Lindfors 1-4, Johnson 0-1, Ambrose 2-3, Aronhalt 2-4, McRae 0-1, Barraza 0-1, Allen 1-1).
Rebounds: Detroit 36 (Holman 14), Albany 31 (Lindfors 7). Assists: Detroit 9 (Payne 5), Albany 10 (Johnson 3, Ambrose 3).
Personal fouls: Detroit 17, Albany 23. Officials: Gary Pucino, Gary Walker, Chris Ogden. Attendance: 3,094.
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