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VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Detroit seized control of the Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship in the second half and never looked back in a 70-50 win over Valparaiso at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Titans earned the Horizon League automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, as Ray McCallum gave his father Ray a birthday present to remember.
Ray McCallum led Detroit (22-13) with 21 points, earning tournament MVP honors after averaging 23.0 points per game once the championship reached No. 1 seed Valparaiso. The third-seeded Titans became just the second team since the Horizon League moved to the double bye format to win four games en route to the League title.
After a sluggish first half saw Detroit do little more than force Valparaiso (22-11) turnovers, the Titans racheted up the intensity in the second half, using a 12-1 run early in the half to seize a 37-32 lead. McCallum was the driving force in the run, converting a three-point play to start the burst, and knocking down a jumper from the elbow to give the Titans their first lead since the score was 5-4.
"We said that we wanted to come out with a lot of energy and emotion in the second half, and play like it could be our last game," the younger McCallum said. "The and-one got me going, then Eli got that big dunk and everyone seemed to feed off of the energy."
Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew was quick to recognize McCallum's effort, saying, "That was probably one of their best halves of the season. They’ve won nine out of their last ten and have been playing at a higher level lately. Ray is very active defensively. He played 39 minutes and didn’t seem tired at all. He’s really long and athletic and played at a high level tonight."
While Valparaiso would turn to Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff in an effort to hang around, it was the Preseason Player of the Year, McCallum, who ensured that the father-son storyline in the NCAA Tournament would center around that of he and his father, who was celebrating his 51st birthday on Tuesday.
With Detroit increasing its pressure on the perimeter, a steal led directly to a McCallum dunk, extending the Detroit lead to 49-42 and sucking the wind out of the capacity-filled gym.
After another Valparaiso turnover - the Crusaders would end the night with 18, its most since Feb. 4 - enabled Jason Calliste
to knock down a three from the wing, pushing the advantage to 10 with 5:33 to play. Detroit finished the night with a 20-2 advantage in points off turnovers, committing just six on the night.
The Crusaders were able to draw within eight, 58-50, but Detroit, the best free-throw shooting team in the Horizon League, knocked down all six of its free throws in the closing minutes to seal its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1999.
Calliste finished with 17 points, knocking down 3-of-7 attempts from three-point range. LaMarcus Lowe
gave Detroit its third player in double figures, matching his career high with 14 points.Kevin Van Wijk
dominated early before succumbing to the knee trouble that plagued him down the stretch. Van Wijk had 12 points in the first half, finishing with 17. Broekhoff was held to just two points in the first half, but carried the Crusaders in the last 20 minutes with 11.
McCallum was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Calliste and Lowe. Broekhoff and Van Wijk rounded out the team.
Detroit will learn its destination for the NCAA Tournament at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 11, as part of CBS' NCAA Tournament Selection Show, while Valparaiso will head to the NIT.
Tags: Detroit - Men's Basketball