Detroit Mercy takes down W. Kentucky, ends 9-game skid
Detroit — Detroit Mercy got a week off from games to take final exams. The Titans got three days off from practice.
It proved to be an opportune time to hit the reset button.
Behind a 3-point barrage from the entire roster, but especially sophomore Josh McFolley, the Titans earned their first win of the season over a Division I opponent, 85-79, over Western Kentucky on Saturday at Calihan Hall.
"That's like therapy," Detroit Mercy coach Bacari Alexander said, beaming.
McFolley scored 24, one of his career high, including 17 in the second half — just hours after taking a Friday night final exam. He took Western Kentucky to school during crunch time, scoring 10 points during a two-minute stretch to take Detroit Mercy from a four-point deficit to a seven-point lead.
McFolley also had a steal and an assist during the run. His eight assists were a career high.
Junior big man Jaleel Hogan, who didn't start because he didn't practice this week to focus on a large class load coming to an end this semester, scored 19 on 9-for-13 shooting.
The victory ends a nine-game losing streak for Detroit Mercy (2-9), which hadn't won since beating Division III Adrian in the season opener.
Detroit Mercy was 12-for-20 on 3-pointers, after going 3-for-30 the previous two games.
"I've been in the gym lately, trying to get my shot right," said McFolley, who made six of his nine 3-point attempts. "My teammates were just able to find me. They let me play my game.
"To get this first win," added McFolley, "many more to come."
Alexander, in his first year as head coach after spending six years as an assistant at Michigan, joked he called John Beilein and "asked for the rabbit's foot."
Michigan has been red-hot from 3-point range, making a program record 19 in a game against Central Arkansas earlier this week.
Freshman Corey Allen scored 16 — his fourth straight start scoring in double digits; he didn't start the previous two games because of a minor ankle injury — including three 3-pointers. Senior Chris Jenkins also made three, finishing with 12 points.
Western Kentucky, also led by a first-year coach, Rick Stansbury, was led by Que Johnson's 21 points and Justin Johnson's 15 points and 14 rebounds. Pancake Thomas scored 11, including a medium stack of three 3-pointers, and Junior Lomomba also scored 11.
The game featured nine ties and 15 lead changes, before Detroit Mercy took the lead for good on McFolley's fast-break layup with 8:29 remaining. The lead was up to nine, 83-74, with 1:09 left before it got dicey.
Three different Titans, in the final minute of the game, missed the front end of a one and one, and Western Kentucky clawed within four. McFolley missed the last one with 16 seconds left, but made amends with a steal and another fast-break layup to secure the team's first victory since Nov. 11.
That's been a big wart for the Titans, free-throw shooting, and Alexander said the focus in upcoming practices will be 40 percent on free throws, an increase from an already pretty-steep 30 percent. Other warts, including foul trouble — Detroit Mercy fouls more than all but one of 347 Division teams
(Manhattan is slightly worse) — were evident. Western Kentucky (4-7) was in the bonus with more than 11 minutes left in the game.
But this season is all about the process for Detroit Mercy, which has some fine veteran and young talent, but is still struggling to find some cohesiveness. At least for a day Saturday, the Titans were able to find a win.
"I'm a process-driven coach, but for our players, here's a group of guys," Alexander said, before reeling off names of seniors who won 16 games a year ago. "For them to be at this point, to be able to get this win after losing nine straight, I think it definitely gets the pressure off those guys."
Detroit Mercy next plays Thursday night at home against Fort Wayne.