Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/1/12
DETROIT -- A member of the Loyola coaching staff had some words for Detroit Titans center Eli Holman in the midst of his 20-point effort Tuesday. "Are you ever gonna miss?" the coach asked Holman during the Titans' 80-71 victory at Calihan Hall in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament. It was a valid question at the time. Holman, a 6-foot-11 senior, was 13-for-13 from the field and the free-throw line combined, and nearly 35 minutes had ticked off the clock. Holman, the Horizon Leagues Sixth Man of the Year, had been waiting for a game like this since he scored 21 against Western Michigan on Dec. 8. That game was his first one back from a season-opening suspension, and until Tuesday, it was his best scoring output this season. "It (his performance Tuesday) was big," Holman said. "But it came from my teammates, who were opening up the floor, who were driving, being more aggressive. And that's what we need to do more, be aggressive in getting to the rim. "I think there's no team in this league that can stop us from getting inside the paint." If there's one Horizon League team that could negate the Titans' strong post presence, it's Youngstown State, the Titans' opponent Friday night at Valparaiso. Youngstown State has taken 688 three-point shots this season, making 264 of them (38 percent). Youngstown State spreads the floor with up to four outside threats at once, a personnel package that can be nightmarish for a coach who runs a more traditional, balanced attack. "They can really spread the floor," Titans coach Ray McCallum said before Thursday's practice. "They're good off the dribble, and they can really make plays in between, as well. "They are going to be one pass, two pass, shot, and they can make transition threes. When they're going, they're capable of making 10, 15 out there. McCallum says that the volume of outside scoring isn't the only problem. "It's hard because it moves our bigs away from the basket, and makes it tough to play (LaMarcus) Lowe and Eli together a lot of time," McCallum said. A key to keeping the Youngstown State attack at bay will be the containment of guards (and leading scorers) Kendrick Perry and Blake Allen. Perry averages a conference-best 16.4 points and Allen is right behind him with 13.1. To compound a matchup problem, both guards are about as trigger-happy as Machine Gun Kelly (149 attempts for Perry and 206 for Allen). If the Titans are to break the tie with Youngstown State this season (they split their two meetings in the regular season), then they have to, as coach McCallum says, "choke off the three." The Titans should have experience in this regard. In their two games against each other this season, Youngstown State has hoisted up an astronomical 54 three-pointers. The effort to contain the three-pointers must begin up top with Ray McCallum Jr. The Titans' point guard and defensive instigator will have his hands full with a Youngstown backcourt armed with a hair-trigger offensive strategy and quick guard play. It starts with Ray defensively," coach McCallum said. "At the point of attack, he has to pressure the ball and play good perimeter defense, then he has to be a high assist guy. We need a big all-around game from him." Detroits backcourt also needs to work on getting out in transition, on both ends. Youngstown State has a propensity to take -- and make -- three-point shots on a fastbreak. In turn, their smaller lineup should be broken down by the hyper-athletic front court the Titans bring to the gym. Holman forms a formidable tandem with Lowe, even when theyre playing at different times. When they play together, the pair of 6-footers form their own skyline in the low-post, complete with an area code and a subway stop. When coach McCallum splits them up, teams are provided zero respite from the big men. That respite comes in the form of forward Evan Bruinsma, a mid-sized four with the heart of a pit bull and surprising touch around the rim. I think we have an advantage with LaMarcus Lowe and myself, even Evan Bruinsma coming off the bench," Holman said. "I think we have a great presence. Evan is our blue-collar guy. That's our garbage truck. That's our guy that we go to when we can't let a guy get to the rim, a guy who has been nothing but consistent. The Titans have all the pieces in place. Now it's on them to take care of business. And that business is winning a Horizon League title and earning an NCAA Tournament berth.
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