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Two days after the greatest buzzer beater in its NCAA tournament history, No. 11 Northern Iowa suffered maybe the greatest meltdown the tournament has ever seen.
Despite a 12-point lead with 38 seconds remaining in the second half, the Panthers turned the ball over four times in the final minute and surrendered a 14–2 run in a 31-second span. Two overtimes later, the exhausted Panthers were headed home after an astonishing 92–88 loss to No. 3 Texas A&M in double overtime.
“To God be the glory,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy told CBS’s Jaime Maggio after the game concluded.
The Aggies’ comeback could be the greatest to ever occur in the NCAA tournament despite the lofty standards the event sets on an annual basis. The chaotic final 45 seconds that saw the Aggies go from 12 down to tied featured multiple botched inbounds passes, a smothering full-court press from Texas A&M that no Northern Iowa ballhandler could weather and a confused Panther team that had carefully handled the Aggies’ defense all night.
Texas A&M’s Alex Caruso hit several key shots down the stretch in regulation and in the first overtime to finish with a team-leading 25 points while Danuel House scored 22 points despite not scoring until 5:14 remaining in regulation.
The teams traded buckets to start the first overtime until a deep three-pointer from Wyatt Lohaus, his first made field goal of the game, put the Panthers up 82–79 with 29 seconds remaining. Caruso charged to the basket for an easy layup to pull the Aggies back within one before Jeremy Morgan split a pair of free throws to push the Panther lead to two.
Then, it was Caruso’s time again, knocking down a midrange jumper to tie it at 83. Paul Jesperson, the man who hit a half-court buzzer beater in Thursday night’s win against Texas, inexplicably hoisted another half-court shot with over three seconds remaining in the first overtime that thudded off the backboard to send the game into a second one.
By then, Northern Iowa’s senior leaders (Wes Washpun, Jesperson) had fouled out while Morgan, who had a heroic 36-point performance, ran out of gas, allowing the energized Aggies to finish off what will likely be the 2016 tournament’s most memorable game.
What It Means
It’s going to take a while to deconstruct this one if anybody chooses to do so. Simply put, the Panthers had the game in hand then somehow found a way to surrender it. Head over to the Bill James lead calculator and type in a 12-point lead with 38 seconds remaining or an eight-point lead with 23 seconds remaining and the calculator will tell you that the lead is 100% safe. Color commentator Mike Gminski repeated that he couldn’t believe his eyes about six different times and it was hard to blame him. It’s supposed to be mathematically impossible to blow a double-digit lead with just over 30 seconds remaining.
The Aggies’ resilience should give them a boost before their Sweet 16 matchup against No. 2 Oklahoma. What appeared to be a nightmare night for House, who entered the game averaging 15.6 points per game, became one of his most memorable after finding a rhythm late in the contest. The trusty senior leadership of Caruso will be another boon for A&M, which now may maintain the momentum to win the West region.
Texas A&M will take on Buddy Hield and No. 2 Oklahoma, which escaped No. 10 VCU on Sunday, on Thursday night in Anaheim.