On Friday, Northern Iowa won one of the NCAA Tournament's most dramatic games when Paul Jesperson banked in a half-court buzzer beater to beat Texas. On Sunday, Texas A&M topped it by erasing a 12-point deficit with 44 seconds to play and beating the Panthers in double overtime.
The Panthers led the third-seeded Aggies 32-22 at halftime and led for 19:57 of the second half before falling victim to one of the most memorable comebacks in postseason history. Senior guard Alex Caruso turned his game up to 11 in the biggest game of his career, netting 25 points and providing the clutch scoring the Aggies needed to survive and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Danuel House added 19 points in the final two minutes of regulation and both overtimes. With the win, Texas A&M advances to a matchup with Oklahoma next week.
These two teams battled through a see-saw start before a 14-3 Northern Iowa run gave the underdogs a lead they held for the vast majority of the second half. The Panthers pushed that advantage to 15 points after halftime, but a late Aggie run cut the deficit to six points with four minutes to play.
That's when UNI senior Matt Bohanon uncorked his only field goal of the night; a backbreaking dagger with the shot clock winding down that seemed to deflate A&M's comeback hopes.
But the Aggies weren't done yet. That nine-point deficit forced Texas A&M to turn up its defensive aggression, and coach Billy Kennedy's strategy worked. A&M forced three straight turnovers with 30 seconds left in the game to trim the Panther lead from 10 points down to three. Northern Iowa responded with a Klint Carlson dunk, but Caruso's and-1 layup on the other end left the Panthers ahead by only a pair.
With the clock winding down, Admon Gilder bullied Wes Washpun into UNI's fourth turnover in 25 seconds and finished with a layup that drew these two teams even with three seconds to play. Washpun couldn't repeat his team's long distance heroics from Friday night, and this game headed into overtime with one of the most drastic win probability swings this tournament has seen (courtesy of Five Thirty-Eight).
Northern Iowa regained its bearings in the second half. Clutch three-pointers from Paul Jesperson and Wyatt Lohaus gave UNI a three-point lead with 29 seconds to play, but Caruso had no interest in ending his college career on Sunday night. He drove to the basket to pull A&M within one point, and then sunk a jumper on the ensuing possession to tie the game back up at 83-all. Jesperson tried to recreate his own heroics by attempting a half court shot, but his oddly-timed jumper caromed off the backboard with nearly two full seconds still on the clock.
The Aggies' return Hail Mary fell inches short, and this game chugged on to a second overtime. Texas A&M grabbed a four-point lead after a slow start, but some missed free throws put the ball back in UNI's hands trailing 91-88 with 21 seconds to play. However, the Panthers' supply of late game heroics ran dry when Jeremy Morgan's jumper missed the mark, and Caruso's team survived to play at least one more game before calling it a season.
Our updated bracket can be found here.
Sunday's final scores
No. 2 Villanova 87, No. 7 Iowa 68
No. 6 Notre Dame 76, No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 75
No. 2 Oklahoma 85, No. 10 VCU 81
No. 10 Syracuse 75, No. 15 Middle Tennessee 50
No. 5 Maryland 73, No. 13 Hawai'i 60
No. 11 Northern Iowa , No. 3 Texas A&M
No. 7 Wisconsin 66, No. 2 Xavier 63
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 8 St. Joseph's, 9:40 p.m. (TBS)
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Buzzer Beater: Wisconsin stuns Xavier on final shot to win
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