VALPARAISO | Ray McCallum hit a shot and played to the crowd. Eli Holman put down a one-handed dunk and pounded his chest.
With the game in the balance early in the second half, Detroit took its game to a place that Valparaiso couldn't match, and the Crusaders paid for it.
The Detroit student section was half the size of Valparaiso's, but twice as loud as the Titans turned Tuesday night's Horizon League title game into a street fight that the Crusaders struggled to keep up with in a 70-50 loss at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
"I don't know how to explain it," Valparaiso's Matt Kenney said. "It's not the best feeling, seeing them celebrate on our floor."
McCallum punctuated Detroit's killer instinct philosophy with a dunk on the final play of the game after the Crusaders had conceded the game.
"It was nothing disrespectful. I just got caught up in the moment," McCallum said.
Valparaiso has prided itself on the ability to adapt to the styles of other teams throughout the year and at the same time Detroit has prided itself on being the toughest team in the Horizon League.
The matador took care of the chameleon on national television.
"I don't think so," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said when asked if Detroit went to a level the Crusaders couldn't. "We beat them twice this year, and they were pretty energized in those games. Detroit has three fifth-year seniors, and they played with a lot of fifth-year senior experience, and we played with a lot of junior experience."
Ray McCallum lived up to every bit of his preseason hype in the spotlight Tuesday night with 21 points, while Ryan Broekhoff struggled to get on track, and the Crusaders didn't connect on their first 3-pointer until 30 minutes into the ballgame. By the time Broekhoff started piling up his 11 second-half points, the outcome had already been decided.
Pounding the ball in the paint was what worked for the Crusaders against Butler in the semifinals, but when Kevin Van Wijk went down with a knee injury toward the end of the first half, Valparaiso lost its ability to change styles throughout the game. Detroit forced the Crusaders to shoot outside, and the 3-pointers never started to fall for Valparaiso.
"We just said that we wanted to come out and play with a lot of energy after the half," McCallum said. "We came out, were talking on defense and then I hit a shot. It got me going. I got energized, and I'll do anything to spark my team."
The Crusaders will have five days to find out their opponent in the NIT and likely a week before they play. Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew will undoubtedly move to reinstall the killer instinct that was lacking Tuesday night.