Detroit Mercy plays good host to Michigan

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit Mercy made Michigan feel right at home Saturday afternoon.

Given less than 72 hours notice, Detroit Mercy accepted Michigan’s request to host the WNIT championship game because of a conflict at Crisler Center.

The Titans staff didn’t disappoint, right down to providing blue scissors for the net-cutting celebration following Michigan’s thrilling, 89-79, triple-overtime victory over Georgia Tech before a raucous crowd of 4,417. That filled more than half of Calihan Hall.

Michigan president Mark Schlissel was among the fans in attendance, staying the entire game and cheering passionately from the back of media row.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, clutching what was left of the net in her right hand.

“An opportunity to play in our home state, in Michigan, surrounded by the maize and blue and just the energy we felt from them was tremendous.”

Michigan knew after its semifinal victory over Villanova that it couldn’t hold the final at Crisler, because a student group had booked the building months earlier.

With Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center booked as well, Michigan staff turned to Detroit Mercy, which transformed Calihan Hall as best it could into Ann Arbor East for a day.

That kept Michigan from having to move the WNIT final to enemy territory in Atlanta.

“Man, I wish I could be there,” said Detroit Mercy women’s coach Bernard Scott, who was at the Final Four in Dallas.

With tickets at $8, Michigan fans came out in full force, decked head to toe in maize and blue, to create the second-largest crowd at Calihan Hall this season — behind only the 6,275 who watched the Oakland-Detroit Mercy rivalry game in men’s hoops.

Detroit Mercy, for a nominal fee, supplied the official scorers, scoreboard operators, media-relations crew, statisticians, ushers, ticket-takers and concessions. Approximately 50 Detroit Mercy employees worked the basketball game.

Michigan brought its marketing team — handing out maize-and-blue T-shirts and pom poms to fans entering the arena — and its own public-address announcer, to provide the pro-Wolverines vibe in pregame introductions and throughout 55 minutes of basketball.