Point guard Nick Edwards (Atlanta, Ga. / Grayson [Glenville State]) drove inside for a game-winning basket in the closing seconds of overtime, lifting the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team to a heart-pounding 81-79 victory over James Madison to close out the Hostilo Community Classic in Savannah, Ga. on a winning note. The Beacons beat a Dukes team that entered the contest with a 6-1 record and checked in at No. 79 in the KenPom rankings.
The quality win represented a milestone victory for head coach Matt Lottich, who became just the fourth coach in program history to reach 100 career triumphs. And the victory came while fighting through adversity, as the Beacons bounced back from back-to-back losses and overcame exorbitant foul trouble.
How It Happened
- James Madison scored the game’s first five points, but Valpo fought back with the next five to level the score. The play stayed even early with Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) scoring a pair of game-tying baskets to make it 7-7 and 9-9 before a go-ahead triple by Quinton Green (Columbus, Ohio / Homeschool [Cedarville]) at the 15:32 mark put Valpo in front 12-11.
- The Dukes regained the lead and held the advantage for the next four minutes. With Valpo chasing four and under 12 minutes left in the first half, Connor Barrett (Chicaog, Ill. / Loyola Academy) stepped up with a big 3 to cut the lead to one at 20-19. A moment later Valpo capitalized on a JMU turnover that was turned into a Krikke basket to make it 21-20 in favor of the Beacons.
- The Dukes built up a six-point lead with just over five minutes to go in the half, but Green drained 3s on consecutive possessions to stem the tide. Kobe King (La Crosse, Wis. / La Crosse Central [Wisconsin]) tied the game at 31 with 3:56 on the clock, but JMU jumped out to a slight edge. Preston Ruedinger (Oshkosh, Wis. / Lourdes Academy) beat both the shot clock and game clock with a 3-point heave that swished through the net as the opening half wrapped up thanks to a nifty assist by Edwards. That bucket trimmed the James Madison lead to one at 37-36.
- The shooting numbers were fairly even in the opening period, but Valpo committed 11 turnovers to James Madison’s six and had just one free-throw attempt (1-for-1) to the opponent’s 13 (11-for-13). Valpo held an 8-4 edge on the offensive glass through 20 minutes.
- Green connected on another 3 early in the second half to lift Valpo’s lead to four, but JMU quickly responded with a 3 of their own.
- Valpo remained in front for the first portion of the second half, but it was difficult to find any separation. The Dukes eventually tied the game at 49 on a made 3-pointer with 12:54 left and then took the lead with two free throws a moment later, before Green swished from long range again to put Valpo back in the driver’s seat.
- Midway through the second half, the game became a free-throw frenzy, with the Dukes eventually finding themselves ahead 62-58 with 8:04 on the clock. King hit big shots at the 6:18 mark and the 4:57 mark to keep Valpo within striking distance. Krikke tied the game on a put-back with 3:51 to go, then Ruedinger had a go-ahead traditional 3-point play with 1:56 remaining to make it 72-70.
- JMU tied the game at the foul stripe with 1:33 left, then Krikke hit what initially appeared to be the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining. Valpo played good defense on the other end of the court, but the ball pinballed to Takal Molson, who floated one up and in from the baseline in the closing seconds to tie the game at 74.
- The Beacons were hampered by serious foul trouble as Ruedinger, Maximus Nelson (Appleton, Wis. / Appleton North) and Ibra Bayu (Flevoland, The Netherlands / Perkiomen) had all fouled out by the end of regulation. Krikke would become the fourth Beacon to foul out during the overtime period. Edwards and King both finished with four fouls as Valpo was in danger of running out of scholarship players available.
- King made two baskets early in OT to help Valpo to a three-point lead at the 2:52 mark. JMU cut it to one after a fastbreak dunk, then Green split a pair of free throws to make it 79-77 with 34 seconds remaining after Valpo got a key stop in the final minute.
- Krikke picked up his fifth foul and sent JMU to the line, where they tied the game with 26 seconds to go in the extra session.
- Valpo ran the clock down and let Edwards take advantage of his matchup by spreading the floor and driving to the basket for the game-winner. JMU dribbled the ball to midcourt and called timeout with 0.5 on the clock. Their desperation heave was off target as time expired.
Inside the Game
- James Madison entered the game leading the nation in scoring margin, blitzing their opponents by an average of 34.7 points per game. The Dukes were coming off a 19-point blowout of South Dakota State and their lone loss on the season prior to Sunday was against the No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina, 80-64.
- Lottich became just the fourth head coach in program history to reach 100 career wins, joining Homer Drew, Bryce Drew and J.M. Christiansen.
- Edwards became the first Valpo player to hit a game-winning shot in the final five seconds of regulation or overtime since Eron Gordon on March 6, 2020 vs. Loyola at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis. Edwards added his name to a long list of late-game heroes in the program’s storied history as this marks the 26th time since the start of the 1992-93 season that Valpo has prevailed on a game-winning shot in the final five seconds.
- Edwards stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals. He tied season highs set at Toledo in assists and steals and established a new season best on the glass.
- Krikke posted 23 points and squeezed seven rebounds, tallying double figures for the sixth time in seven games this season. He has scored 20 points or more four times this season and 13 times in his collegiate career.
- King has been in double figures all seven games this season including six contests with 15+ points after his 16-point showing on Sunday.
- Green drained five 3s, tying a career high that he reached twice during his tenure at Division-II Cedarville and again in his Valpo debut at Toledo. The sharpshooter tallied 18 points in the win.
- Junior Jerome Palm (Almere, Netherlands / Echnaton [Hillsborough CC]) played 17 minutes and pulled down seven rebounds on Sunday. He has seven or more boards in three of his five games this season.
- This marked Valpo’s first overtime game of the year after the Beacons played beyond the regulation 40 minutes on six occasions a year ago.
- Valpo outrebounded JMU 41-32, winning the battle on the boards for the first time this season.
- Valpo prevailed despite being outscored by 22 points at the free-throw line (30-8) due to James Madison having 29 more attempts (42-13). The Dukes’ 30 made free throws were the most by a Valpo opponent since Jan. 13, 2018 at UNI (31). Their 42 attempts were the most by a Valpo opponent since Dec. 20, 2017 at UC Riverside (42).
- The 42 attempted free throws were tied for the 11th most in the country this season and the 30 made were also tied for the 11th most nationally. The Beacons were whistled for 32 fouls.
- Valpo became the first team in the nation to win a game when the opponent had 40+ free-throw attempts this season.
The Beacons (3-4) will open Missouri Valley Conference play on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Belmont. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.