VALPARAISO, INDIANA - Markus Golder put up a leaping, one-handed shot from half court , the ball snapping through the net at the buzzer as Valparaiso completed a wild last-minute comeback to defeat Illinois State 58-56 in a Missouri Valley Conference opener Wednesday night.
Golder finished with 10 points and all seven of his second-half points came in the final 1:15 as the Crusaders (8-6, 1-0) rallied, outscoring Illinois State 12-2 over that span. The Redbirds (7-7, 0-1) held a 54-53 lead and had leading scorer Zach Copeland at the line with two seconds remaining. Copeland missed both free throws with Golder rebounding, sprinting up court in a crowd and putting up the winner.
Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich starred for the Osaka Evessa dynasty in the now-disbanded bj-league’s early years before joining the Oita HeatDevils in 2009. He retired in 2012.
After the game, Lottich, in his third season at the helm, commended his players for their poise in the closing seconds of the game.
“Stuff like that happens when you play great,” Lottich said on a video posted on the Valparaiso athletics website.
“We probably thought the game was over on the (late) turnover, but it wasn’t. We just stuck with it.
He went on: “Never panicked, ran your offense. I’m very proud of you guys. This is one. There’s 17 more (conference games).”
Ryan Fazekas led Valparaiso with 14 points and Derrik Smits added 10 with nine rebounds.
Copeland scored 21 points with five 3-pointers to lead Illinois State and Phil Fayne added 14 points.
Breaking away from a 26-26 halftime tie, Illinois State opened the final period on a 12-1 run and held the lead up until Golder’s half-court buzzer-beater.