We've still got two full months until the NCAA Tournament and plenty of hoops left to be played in between, but the Valparaiso Crusaders already have a case for comeback of the season in college basketball.
Trailing Illinois State by 10 with 2:07 remaining, things looked dire, but Valpo began to chip away at the lead. Junior guard Ryan Fazekas hit a pair of free throws to make it 54-46, and then the Crusaders forced a turnover, got fouled and missed a pair of free throws, but got the offensive rebound. Markus Golder, a junior guard from Oregon, capitalized on the second chance, hitting a layup and cutting the lead to 54-48 with 1:15 to go.
After two quick fouls to put Illinois State at the charity stripe, Valpo got just what they needed, a missed free throw on the front end of the 1-and-1 and a quick three on the other end to make it 54-51. Illinois State hit its next two free throws, then Valpo answered with a layup and two free throws of its own to make it 56-55 with five seconds remaining. Another quick foul put the Illinois State back at the line, where Zach Copeland missed his first free throw. That's when Golder got the rebound, raced to half-court and chucked up this Gerry McNamara-esque final shot:
BANG! Is there anything better than a buzzer beater off the glass? Something about the "dun-dun" sound that makes it that much more of a dagger. Golder's three gave Valpo its only lead of the entire second half, and its first since Golder put them up 26-24 with 3:45 to go in the first half. The Crusaders are now 1-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference and 8-6 on the year. Is this their biggest win since Bryce Drew daggered Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament?