Nick Minnerath was an odd choice to be one of the top 10 players in the Horizon League coming into the season. He was coming off a season cut short by a knee injury, and he was stepping back onto the court against a number of top big men at the mid-major ranks.
And yet we bit the bullet and put him in the hallowed ground. He has been repaying us all season long, but probably not more than he did Friday night.
The senior who was given another chance at college basketball, and who looks for all the world like a junior version of the Birdman, delivered 27 points, five rebounds and two steals to lead Detroit past Youngstown State, 88-77. The win kept the Titans just a single game behind Valparaiso in the tight Horizon League race.
It wasn't just the totals that stood out for Minnerath, but it was the way he dominated the game. Youngstown State didn't have a player with as much size and strength as the senior. Damian Eargle, who admittedly had one of the best games of the season for the Penguins, just didn't have the size to contend with Minnerath.
And if Youngstown State tried to go with a smaller, faster player against him? He just ate them up inside; there was no stopping him.
It was a statement game for the senior, who has had foul trouble all season long, including fouling out of the last two games for Detroit. Friday night, he committed just one foul and his presence on the court for 34 minutes confounded the Penguins.
A short side note on Eargle, who continues to light up the stat sheet for Youngstown State (and let's quickly point out that at least the Penguins kept it within 11, as opposed to 40 last time out). He came a few blocks shy of recording a triple-double for the Penguins, with 13 points, 12 boards and seven swats. The seven blocks give him 77 for the year, and continue to pad a stat where the senior is already one of the 25 best in the country. Two of those came on a sequence where he rejected Ray McCallum on back-to-back possession. Not many players are going to be able to claim that on their resumes.
Were it not for his inability to truly stop Minnerath from dominating all over the floor, he would have been the story of the night. As it was, the junior Birdman earned the excessive praise Friday, and it was well deserved.