In hindsight, I guess it’s not that surprising that Detroit didn’t really show up to play against Marquette. It was clear Wednesday evening that their first and only priority was winning the league, so the last two non-conference games would be ultimately meaningless.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||14||Faceoff Wins||13|
|Offensive Efficiency||.310||Offensive Efficiency||.438(!)|
This game was pretty even in terms of possessions. Despite limited attempts for the players who have taken over faceoffs, UDM actually won that metric, and the clears were close enough. It was UDM’s utter incapability to stop anyone that was the problem.
Starting with the goalkeeping. Chris Kelly started (by the sounds of things, AJ Levell didn’t even travel)… and struggled. He saved just .391 of shots faced, and only half of Marquette’s 14 goals were assisted, so it’s not like he was being dunked on after his defense totally sold him out. This was his first game action in ages, so it took him about a quarter to get into the groove, but Marquette came out on fire after halftime, and he didn’t do much to drag his team up by the bootstraps.
Speaking about the defense itself is important, because the game-long numbers are mostly terrible. The Titans ran with the normal starters for most of the contest, so it’s not like Kelly was completely set up to fail. Still, Only eight caused turnovers in 32 is not how the Titans win games. Jordan Houtby had a great evening with two CTs and eight ground balls.
I mentioned faceoffs above… and it’s odd that Detroit didn’t go with Damien Hicks a little more. If it’s a strategy to keep him (and Levell) healthy for the regular-season ender against Canisius – a do-or-die game for the playoffs – then I guess that’s fine. It’s still a little embarrassing to treat a non-conference game like a scrimmage and not roll with some of your best talent. That said, Brandon Davenport was pretty good on faceoffs, so it didn’t really kill the Titans anyway. Slightly above .500, considering the season-long success rate for UDM is well below that, is good.
So, when the defense is bad, it’s the offense’s job to bail it out, right? That’s not going to be a regular occurrence for this UDM team which – while it has an improving offense – has relied on the opposite strategy with a good defense propping up a mediocre offense. When the defense struggles uncharacteristically, it’s going to be big trouble in a game, and that cam to fruition here.
Alex Maini was (unsurprisingly) the leader of the unit. He scored three goals on seven shots. Sophomore Mike Birney is coming along, but his three goals were a product of plenty of volume shooting. He took ten shots – albeit seven of them on goal – to get those numbers. Scott Drummond had just one goal, but notched three assists. Some who were in attendance let me know that there were some missed opportunities on the doorstep, but in a five-goal game (that wasn’t even really that close for much of the second half), it would have taken converting all of those opportunities to make the difference on the scoreboard.
So, Detroit is the most-penalized team in the country, eh? How does seven penalties for 6:00 sound? Marquette’s man-up was 4/7 on the day, and that’s probably plenty enough – especially when coupled with the defense’s fatigue from killing off so many penalties – to be the difference in the game. I’ve seen a handful of Detroit games in each of the past three years, and I know they might be unfairly targeted by officials at times, but you simply can’t win that many games with that (deserved) reputation for being overly physical. There’s a chicken-and-egg problem (Wisconsin basketball has a reputation for being physical, so they get away with some things that probably should be fouls), but until you earn the benefit of the doubt with some wins on the field… the calls speak for themselves.
Unsurprisingly, this was the best offensive day in Marquette’s history as a program. Tyler Melnyk (4G, 2A), Kyle Whitlow (3G), Conor Gately (2A), and the duo of Bryan Badolato and Connor Bernal (2G apiece) all put up plenty of scoring.
Oddly, for a team that didn’t score many assisted goals, almost every one shown in the highlight features an assist.
Fortunately for Detroit, they’re at a point in the year where non-conference losses (even to teams that have been smoked by Michigan and Saint Joseph’s over the course of this season) don’t matter. It’s about qualifying for, and competing in, the MAAC Tournament.
The Titans’ next game is their opportunity to earn that berth, and see what they can do with the chance they give themselves. It’s senior day Saturday at Titan Field, and the opponent is a Canisius squad that Detroit should be able to dispatch. As we’ve seen this year, “should” isn’t enough. Time to put up or shut up.