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December 2011: Re-VITALE-ized!

Titans' inspired effort could save season

By Michael Martinez
On December 7, 2011

Check their Vital(e) signs. The Titans have a heartbeat again!

Dick Vitale may have left his name on the court in Calihan Hall Monday night but the mark he left on the Titans' season was much more important.

Detroit limped into Monday's contest losers of five of its last six games. A high number of turnovers, lack of on-court leadership and limited bodies sought to destroy a once-promising year.

But all that changed Monday.

The victory over St. John's brought the Titans back to life and may have saved their season.

Despite the fact that UDM plays over 30 games, the success and failure of the past few years have really boiled down to one or two key matchups.

Two years ago, a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Gordon Hayward-led Butler Bulldogs sent Detroit into a February funk that it never quite recovered from.

Last year, the Titans seemed poised to make a run at the top of the conference. With freshman phenom Ray McCallum, UDM looked to make a mark on fans during Homecoming weekend against Butler and Valparaiso.

Both games resulted in blowout losses. Detroit never quite regained the same fan support that season and ended up with a record barely over .500.

This time, however, the Titans lived up to the hype surrounding the game against the Red Storm.

You can thank Vitale.

The former coach and ESPN legend spoke to the team before the game. The players said the pep talk, coupled with the intense energy of the crowd, sparked UDM to the biggest win of its young season.

The victory had everything Detroit had been lacking.

On-court leadership? McCallum provided plenty of it, taking control of the game in the final minutes.

The coach's son has struggled so far this year but we may have seen him take a step forward in his career Monday.

After many games marked by sloppy play, Detroit turned the ball over just three times in the first half and finished with 11 turnovers.

It's still a sad reality that the team is without Nick Minnerath (for the rest of the season) and Eli Holman (for now) but, at least for one night, Detroit played with the deeper bench.

St. John's used just a seven-man rotation and was without the services of its head coach, Steve Lavin, as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

Still, the Red Storm used its size to outrebound Detroit 42-26.

That will continue to be a problem, depending on (when? if?) Holman returns. LaMarcus Lowe can't continue to protect the paint by himself.

UDM's only current big man is certainly an intimidating presence, averaging multiple blocks a game, but he's been in foul trouble far too many times.

Still, Monday's game was just the jolt UDM needed to wake up from its early-season coma.

Vitale coached the Titans through some magical seasons in the '70s. Now, his name will forever be associated with the 2011-12 team.

Maybe the magic will be, too.

 

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