Detroit- When an NCAA Division I team host an NAIA team for a regular season, or in this case, exhibition game, the NAIA is supposed to get routed in the contest. Well, the Lawrence Tech Blue Devils didn’t receive that memo Friday night, as they beat the Detroit Mercy Titans 77-66 at Calihan Hall. The Lawrence Tech team managed to stun the Titan fans in attendance, making this a game all the way through until the final minute.
“Congrats to Lawrence Tech,” Titans head coach Bernard Scott said. “They came in prepared and ready to go and unfortunately, our players weren’t focused.”
Lawrence Tech entered this game with a 2-0 record and coming off a big win over St. Francis, the 21st ranked team in the NAIA poll. This win over Detroit Mercy now places a huge feather in the cap of the players, even if doesn’t count toward their won-loss record.
“It’s just big for my kids right now for us to eat confidence,” Blue Devils head coach Kylene Spiegel said. “I think a lot of people felt at the beginning of the season, nobody felt we could hang with anybody. Nobody thought we were going to be very good, and so we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and we’re on a mission this year.”
Lawrence Tech was picked sixth in the preseason Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) poll despite a fourth-place finish last season and a first round WHAC Tournament win over Madonna.
“We knew we did a lot of good things over the summer,” Blue Devil junior forward Nicole Buckingham said. “A lot of girls made a lot of strides over the summer, got a lot better. So we knew what we were capable of. If other people don’t believe in us, that doesn’t matter. What matters is at the end of the day, our locker room believes in ourselves.”
Buckingham and guard Hayley Walkowski, a fellow junior, were the top two leading scorers for Lawrence Tech with 17 and 16 points respectively. Walkowski also had a team-leading 11 rebounds, giving her a double-double. Sophomore forward Rachel Price, a transfer from NCAA Division II school, Tiffin, was limited to 16 minutes due to foul trouble, but led her team with four blocks and helped pace the early scoring; with four of her seven points coming in 16-9 run to start the game.
“I recruited Rachel at Tiffin and then I went to Kent State for a couple years, so she only played one year at Tiffin, decided to go back home to actually Wright State because she wanted to major in engineering” Spiegel said. “When I received the job (at Lawrence Tech) last year, she was one of my first phone calls, to try to get her to follow, and come here since we have a great engineering program.”
For the Titans, two of their seniors, forward Brianne Cohen and guard Nicole Urbanick finished with 19 and 18 points respectively. Urbanick also had four steals and shot 4-7 from three point range. Cohen added two blocks.
“We have some things we need to work on,” Scott said. “We’re definitely not where we’re going to be, but come next Friday, we’ll be ready.”
That Friday, the Titans will play their regular season opener at Miami of Ohio in Oxford, while the Blue Devils will resume regular season play two days earlier with a Wednesday home game against Great Lakes Christian College.