Detroit Mercy men's coach Bacari Alexander met the media Friday following a 93-81 loss to Green Bay in the Horizon League tournament at Little Caesars Arena. Tony Paul, Detroit News
Detroit — In what would be its final game of the season, the first half of Detroit Mercy’s Horizon League tournament opener at Little Caesars Arena on Friday night summed up its entire season: tired.
Tired of the noise, tired of the unordinary, and, perhaps most notably, tired of Green Bay’s 3-point shooting.
After setting a school record with 15 3-pointers in a win over Oakland the previous weekend, the Green Bay Phoenix hit 13 more on its way to a 93-81 victory to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Leading the charge for Green Bay was Novi native Kameron Hankerson, who finished with a career-high 36 points while going 7-for-9 from 3-point range. The Phoenix opened 7-for-8 from beyond the arc on their way to a 37-16 lead with 7:44 left in the half.
“My goal is to win a championship, so, realistically, whatever we gotta do to get to a championship, that’s what I’m going to do,” Hankerson said. “Tonight it was scoring 36, tomorrow it might be only scoring 10 and having five or six rebounds. Realistically, that’s just how I am.”
Khalil Small scored 19 for the Phoenix, Sandy Cohen III 15, PJ Pipes 12, and David Jesperson 11.
The perimeter ball movement was a mere cog in the wheel of a Green Bay offense that was running over Detroit Mercy in a variety of lanes early on. When the Phoenix didn’t take an outside shot, they were getting to the hoop with ease. When the paint wasn’t an option, they hit from the elbow.
“We lost Manny Patterson in the Wright State game in the first minute of the game, and after that we’ve kind of made some changes on what we do,” Green Bay coach Linc Darner said. “We’ve kind of opened the floor, spaced it a little bit; we’ve had good shooters.”
Detroit Mercy finished with a school-record 24 losses in a season that included an ambiguous seven-game “absence” by head coach Bacari Alexander as the young Titans squad never found its groove.
“It’s a really tough pill to swallow because when you look back on the season comprehensively, we had so many types of hurdles,” Alexander said. “For us, to end on this note, there’s a sense of respect that I have for our student-athletes being able to persevere.
Behind Kameron Chatman’s 17 second-half points, Detroit Mercy got back into the game after being down 47-33 at the half.
From there, the Titans traded punches with the Phoenix offense, forcing their way into every passing and shooting lane, bringing the Detroit crowd with their tenacity to life on its way to 58-56 lead with 12:20 remaining.
“Coming out we wanted to establish ourselves defensively, and I think we kind of built our offense off of our defense in the second half,” Chatman said.
They just couldn’t guard that perimeter.
With the score 62-60, Green Bay got back to its assassin-like shooting ways. A trio of 3-pointers from Hankerson and a vicious breakaway dunk from the sophomore guard killed the spirit of Detroit Mercy’s comeback hopes and gave the Phoenix a 70-60 lead, where they kept the Titans at bay.
“We just told our guys to relax,” Darner said about his team’s resiliency. “We knew they were going to make the run; we gotta make the next run.”
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.