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UDM's Antoine Davis scores 46 (3 off program record) in first DI men's postseason game of season

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

In his first seven games of the season, Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis made seven 3-pointers. Total.

On Thursday night, Davis made 10 3s and finished with 46 points — the fourth 40-point game of his career, and just three points shy of Archie Tullos' program record — as the Titans returned to the postseason for the first time in two years and pulled away from Robert Morris, 83-73, in a Horizon League quarterfinal game at Calihan Hall. It was the first Division I men's postseason game of the season.

The Titans (12-9), seeded fifth in the tournament, won their 11th game in 13 and advance to face No. 4 seed Northern Kentucky (13-10) on the road Tuesday night. That will be the schools' first meeting this season.

Antoine Davis makes one of his six first-half 3-pointers for Detroit Mercy on Thursday night at Calihan Hall in the first game of the Horizon League tournament.

Robert Morris (3-13) and Detroit Mercy were playing their third consecutive game against each other, with the Titans winning all three, though the last two weren't exactly easy.

"I'm really happy we don't have to ever see them again, they play so hard and they're well-coached," Detroit Mercy coach Mike Davis said of his counterpart, Andrew Toole, who's only 40, but has been head coach for 11 seasons. "I was nervous the whole day just thinking about them.

"Everybody said you can't beat a team three times. As coaches, we're so superstitious about everything. I kept saying, 'Whew, man, I hope they're not right."

Like the last meeting, Robert Morris, the No. 12 seed in its first year playing in the Horizon League, took the early lead, 9-3 at one point in the first half, thanks to some good defensive pressure. But eventually, Davis found some openings and found his groove.

BOX SCORE: Detroit Mercy 83, Robert Morris 73

His shoes were neon green, but his game was red-hot, scoring 24 in the first half, for a 36-24 Detroit Mercy lead, on 6-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. He was quieter from long range in the second half, but showcased his more-versatile game, driving to the basket and drawing fouls, and finding his teammates. He's made 47 consecutive free throws, 4-for-4 Thursday.

Davis couldn't quite catch the single-game record of 49 — in classy fashion, he dribbled out the clock; late in the game, he shared the ball rather than drawing the fouls to himself so he could shoot more free throws — but still made some history along the way, passing the 2,000-point mark for his career and moving past Dave DeBusschere for third place in Detroit Mercy.

Davis, at 2,024, trails only Rashad Phillips (2,319) and John Long (2,167). His 46 points are a record for a Detroit Mercy player in the postseason, and a Horizon League tournament record, and his 10 3s are a tournament record, passing Phillips.

He said he didn't know about the looming records, nor did his father — except for the tournament 3-point record. Phillips told Mike Davis about that during a meeting a couple years ago.

"I didn't," Antoine Davis said. "I was just out there hooping, to be honest.

"Everybody should feel good. It was an ugly win, especially in the second half. But, I mean, all and all, everyone should be excited."

Davis, named first-team all-Horizon League for a third consecutive year this week but falling shy of player of the year to Wright State's Loudon Love (he's won three in a row), had his best single-game performance with 48 against Wright State in 2019. He scored 43 against IUPUI to close out the 2020 season and 42 against Loyola-Chicago in 2018.

Subscribers: Detroit Mercy's Mike Davis blasts Horizon's seed formula: They gave us 4 more losses

Davis also had five assists, Bul Kuol scored 14 for Detroit Mercy, and Chris Brandon had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Brandon had back-to-back scores to answer some of Robert Morris' work on the other end.

Brandon, one of the few key holdovers for Detroit Mercy, had a slow start to the season because of injury, and still is working his way back. He picked a fine time to get back Thursday night. Detroit Mercy outbrebounded Robert Morris, 34-21.

"Chris stepped up," Mike Davis said. "He was big for us tonight."

Kahliel Spear scored 22 for Robert Morris, Jon Williams had 17 and Kam Farris had 15. Robert Morris has played much of this month without star AJ Bramah, who transferred, and were without big man Charles Bain (ankle) for the second half, and top defender Dante Treacy for several minutes late in the second half because of foul trouble.

Still, the Colonials — who qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year, before it was canceled because of COVID-19 — stayed in it most of the second half, dominating offensively in the paint on several consecutive possessions. Robert Morris shot 61.29% in the second half, but Detroit Mercy almost always found a way to respond (shooting 61.54% in the second half), and finally found themselves a little bit of breathing room with about 5:40 left, on a Davis 3, following a Robert Morris turnover.

That was one of Davis' two 3s in the second half, after eight in the first.

He knew he had to change things up; that showcased the recent maturation of his game. 

"I felt like they were gonna start playing me a little bit harder," said Davis, adding this was the best he's felt on the court since that Wright State game his freshman year. "I just decided to just drive and settle for mid-range, and if I didn't have the mid-range, then just kick it out."

This was Detroit Mercy's first postseason victory since winning a game in the 2016 Horizon League tournament, three head coaches ago. The Titans sat out last year because of NCAA academic probation.

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Horizon League men's tournament

THURSDAY

►No. 5 Detroit Mercy 83, No. 12 Robert Morris 73

►No. 6 Youngstown State 74, No. 11 UIC 58

►No. 8 Milwaukee 84, No. 9 IUPUI 72

►No. 10 Purdue Fort Wayne 89, at No. 7 Green Bay 84 (2OT)

TUESDAY

►No. 10 Purdue Fort Wayne (7-14, 6-14) at No. 1 Cleveland State (16-7, 16-4), 7 (ESPN+)

►No. 8 Milwaukee (9-11, 7-10) at No. 2 Wright State (18-5, 16-4), 7 (ESPN+)

►No. 5 Detroit Mercy (12-9, 10-6) at No. 4 Northern Kentucky (13-10, 11-7), 7 (ESPN+)

►No. 6 Youngstown State (15-11, 9-11) at No. 3 Oakland (10-17, 10-10), 7:30 (ESPN+)

MARCH 8

At Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis

►Semifinal, 6:30 (ESPNU)

►Semifinal, 9:30 (ESPN2)

MARCH 9

►Championship, 7 (ESPN or ESPN2)

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984