Detroit — Just how many answers did Detroit Mercy have for Kendrick Nunn on Saturday?
Umm ... Nunn. Feel free to groan.
After all, that's pretty much what Titans fans did just about every time Nunn touched the ball at Calihan Hall. Oakland's star transfer, second in the nation in scoring, finished with a career-high 38 points with the help of eight 3-pointers in a 92-86 victory — a blowout early, a nailbiter late — over rival Detroit Mercy before an announced crowd of 3,257.
"Any win is good, any win on the road is great," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "And any win over Detroit's the greatest thing that can happen to me. So I'm really happy right now."
Nunn now is averaging 26.4 points for this, his only season playing for Oakland (13-8, 5-3 Horizon League), which has won four straight with two tough ones coming up next week, at Northern Kentucky and at Wright State. It's a stretch Kampe acknowledged will determine whether the Golden Grizzlies repeat as regular-season champions.
In 11 games since returning from a bad rolled-ankle injury, Nunn, a former star at Illinois, is averaging 29.5 points. He was 6-for-6 on free throws, all coming late to seal the victory and turn back Detroit Mercy's last-ditch comeback effort.
Another Big Ten transfer, former Michigan Wolverine Kameron Chatman, scored 24 for Detroit Mercy (6-15, 2-6), as did freshman Corey Allen, who put the Titans on his back late with a trio of unbelievable 3-pointers to make it a contest.
"You know, we took it more personally, you know, going into half down 19, 20, something, like that (actually 21)," Chatman said. "We just took it upon ourselves to basically come back however we could."
Golden Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe talks about Oakland's win over Detroit Mercy. Tony Paul, The Detroit News
That they did. Like so many of Detroit Mercy's close losses, though, it wasn't enough in the end.
The matchup pitted the top two offenses in the Horizon League, No. 1 Detroit Mercy and No. 2 Oakland, and it lived up to the billing, at least early. At one point in the first half, the game was on pace to be a 130-100 Oakland victory.
Oakland's defense tightened up first, led by sophomore forward Isaiah Brock, who finished with five blocks and 12 rebounds. He got a breather after one inspired stretch late in the first half, and a high-five from Kampe, a sight you don't see every day from the perfectionist coach.
Kampe, who said the winner would be determined by whichever team was committed to defense, called Brock the player of the game, and Detroit Mercy coach Bacari Alexander had a tough time arguing.
"Isaiah is a really proven defender. Here's a guy that alters or blocks shots at the rim," Alexander said. "In addition to that, he's one of those guys that doesn't necessarily give you second opportunities at the basket."
Brock was a huge factor in Oakland winning the paint battle, 36 points to 18. Oakland also had nine second-chance points to four for Detroit Mercy, and 10 offensive rebounds to four for Detroit Mercy.
Titans coach Bacari Alexander talks about Detroit Mercy's loss to Oakland. Tony Paul, The Detroit News
Still, despite a 50-29 halftime deficit, Detroit Mercy made a significant surge late, getting within 79-68 with 3:35 remaining, before Martez Walker was fouled on a 3-pointer. One of Oakland's several redshirt seniors, Walker made all three.
Then it became the Allen and Nunn show, as a one-time blowout turned into the tension-filled rivalry game you'd expect.
Allen responded with a 3-pointer on which he was fouled, making the free throw for the four-point play and make it a 10-point game.
After Walker broke the Detroit Mercy press and went right down the lane for a layup, the last of his 18 points, Allen hit a pair of free throws to cut Oakland's lead to 85-77 with about a minute-and-a-half left. The Golden Grizzlies opened the door with a pair of ill-advised shots early in the shot clock.
Nick Daniels, a redshirt senior for Oakland, tossed up one of those, a wild 3-point try. Allen was fouled, giving the Titans two points without killing any clock.
"I wanted to kill him," Kampe said, tongue in cheek. "He's a fifth-year senior, but he missed some free throws (1-for-6) and he let that get to him. He wanted to do something great. Well, something great would've been to dribble it out."
Kampe took some of the blame for Detroit Mercy's comeback, saying he switched Walker off of Allen and on to Chatman — then, the Titans leading scorer — to Walker's objection. Allen made him pay.
The Titans got a key stop as Nunn wore the shot clock down but missed his shot, and freshman Jermaine Jackson Jr. hit a quick 3-pointer to make it 86-80 with 26.8 seconds left. After two Nunn free throws, Allen hit a 3-pointer to cut it to five with 19 seconds left. Rinse and repeat.
Allen drained another 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds remaining to make it 90-86, before Nunn made two more free throws. Allen's last heave was off the mark, and that was that.
"The little things," Walker said of Detroit Mercy getting back in the game. "We've gotta fix that. We're working, and know we've gotta get better down there in a situation like that. It won't happen again."
Oakland improved to 7-2 in the series since joining the Horizon League, including three consecutive wins at Calihan Hall.
Roschon Prince — a graduate transfer from Long Beach State who has stepped up big time in the absence of Jaleel Hogan — who has been out the last four games along with Tariiq Jones for what's believed to be academic issues — had 13 points and six rebounds for the Titans. Alexander said he hopes Hogan, a key big body in the paint, can return this season, but isn't certain he will. Chatman added 10 rebounds.
Redshirt senior Jalen Hayes added 17 points for Oakland.
Freshman James Beck returned to the court for Oakland after missing several games with stress fractures in his leg. He played six minutes and had one steal and one turnover, and Kampe said he hopes to get him increased minutes in the coming week.
Detroit Mercy also plays at first-place Wright State and second-place Northern Kentucky next week. Those two teams swept their trips to Metro Detroit this month, sweeping Oakland and Detroit Mercy.
Alexander was hoarse in his postgame presser, but said he wasn't sick — he called it "rivalry week voice."
Vowels on leave
Detroit Mercy athletic director Robert Vowels has been noticeably absent from sporting events lately. A spokesman confirmed he has taken a personal leave of absence to tend to a death in the family.
He's expected to be back to work Monday.