The Valparaiso men's basketball team didn't need a buzzer-beater to win at Detroit this season. It needed a perfect final three minutes.
The Crusaders brushed off a 22-point second half deficit and scored the final 12 points of the contest to complete an improbable comeback with an 89-88 win against the Titans on Thursday.
Kevin Van Wijk scored a career-high 31 points and Ryan Broekhoff knocked down two free throws with 17.4 seconds left to give the Crusaders their first lead since the opening moments of the game.
Detroit had two chances at a game-winner, but Evan Bruinsma and Nick Minnerath each missed 3-pointers in the final five seconds.
"We kept plugging away and we took the game one possession at a time," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. "We knew there wasn't any 20-point shot or 10-point basket that we could hit out there."
The game was yet another heart-stopping contest at Calihan Hall. Last season Erik Buggs went the length of the court in the final seconds to hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer.
"I don't think we've been down this much and been able to come back to win," Drew said. "As a former player and now a coach you see both sides of it and sometimes there just isn't an explanation."
Minnerath was unstoppable for much of the evening as the fifth-year senior scored a career-high 36 points. Minnerath missed last season with an injury but has long been respected by the Crusaders as the best player on Detroit's roster. With the game on the line, Minnerath missed just his fifth shot of the night, setting off a wild Valparaiso celebration.
"There is no question that (Detroit) dominated the game for much of the night," Drew said. "They have five guys who can score in double figures. Erik (Buggs) did a good job forcing (Ray) McCallum to pass on one of the last shots. I'm extremely proud of this team right now."
The Crusaders (14-5, 4-1) trailed 88-77 with just under three minutes remaining when Matt Kenney knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers. Van Wijk then scored four points before Broekhoff connected on the final two free throws of the night. Broekhoff was fouled after Buggs poked the ball away from McCallum with 19 seconds left.
"We stayed together and we stayed composed," Van Wijk said. "We knew that we had to chip away over time. We have a lot of experience on this team. Everyone has been in a situation like this before."
Broekhoff had 18 points and nine rebounds while Matt Kenney added 12 points. Doug Anderson had 17 points for the Titans (11-7, 3-2) while McCallum was limited to just six points.