Texas A&M tops Northern Iowa to end Panthers' cardiac run

By Chad Conine, The Sports Xchange  |  March 21, 2016 at 3:09 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- March Madness doesn't get any more insane than Northern Iowa's two games this week.

Two days after the 11th-seeded Panthers hit a buzzer-beater to defeat Texas, Texas A&M overcame a 12-point deficit in the final 44 seconds and ousted Northern Iowa in double overtime 92-88 Sunday in an NCAA Tournament West Region game at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Aggie players and coach Billy Kennedy were as baffled as the finish as their counterparts from UNI.

"I mean, come on, man, I don't know what Vegas' odds are on a situation like that," Kennedy said. "I'm elated. It will soak in. I've got to go watch it. I still don't know what happened, to be honest with you."

Texas A&M forced four turnovers and went 6-for-6 from the field in the final 33 seconds of regulation, including guard Danuel House's 3-pointer and guard Alex Caruso's three-point play.

Aggies guard Admon Gilder came up with a steal and a layup with two seconds left to tie it send the Texas A&M fans into hysterics. Northern Iowa guard Wes Washpun's desperation shot bounced off the backboard and over the rim.

"It felt like we were a minute away from dancing," said UNI guard Paul Jesperson, who hit the half-court buzzer-beater in the Panthers' first-round win. "Texas A&M made some great individual plays and we weren't able to make a few that we needed to make. So credit them."

The Aggies held Northern Iowa to no field goals and just five points in the second overtime. House hit a jumper in the lane to give Texas A&M a four-point lead with 57 seconds left in double overtime.

Texas A&M (28-8) advances to play Oklahoma in the West Region semifinals Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.

Caruso finished with 25 points and nine rebounds to lead Texas A&M, and House added 22 points and eight boards.

House said Washpun, who fouled out with 3:41 left in the first overtime, clamped down on him for most of regulation. House scored 10 points after Washpun left the game.

"Washpun did a good job of smothering me," House said. "Obviously he's a little bit shorter than me, so he clawed at me a lot. But when he fouled out, I think Alex came to me and told me just take it to another gear and be aggressive and draw the ball."

Guard Jeremy Morgan scored 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Northern Iowa (23-13). Forward Klint Carlson scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime, and Washpun finished with nine points and 10 assists.

Carlson caught fire, scoring 10 points in a little less than two minutes to help the Panthers stretch their lead to double digits with 9:42 remaining. Washpun followed with a 3-pointer for a 54-42 edge with 8:48 to go, and the Panthers stiff-armed the Aggies until the final minute.

Then it all came unraveled.

"Because of the way these guys handled themselves and the leadership that these (Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Washpun) showed, the way this one went down, there is no question this is the hardest one that I've been a part of."

Northern Iowa surged ahead by 15 early in the second half when forward Bennett Koch hit a baseline jumper.

Texas A&M responded immediately with an 11-0 run. The Aggies got into the paint for three consecutive baskets as Caruso and forward Jalen Jones (16 points) each made layups and center Tyler Davis had a put-back.

Guard Anthony Collins hit a 3-pointer to cap the Aggies' surge and cut Northern Iowa's lead to 39-35 with 13:20 left.

The first half featured four ties and five lead changes, but Northern Iowa pulled away in the last seven minutes before the break.

Morgan hit a 3-pointer and made a layup and Washpun hit a jumper on a 7-0 run that put Northern Iowa ahead 25-19 with 3:55 left before halftime.

Northern Iowa kept it going by scoring the final seven points of the first half. Morgan hit another trey to start the run and Washpun finished it with a fall-away shot from just to the right of the elbow.

Washpun's basket put the Panthers ahead 32-22 at the break.

Morgan finished the first half with 14 points to pace Northern Iowa, while Washpun had five points and five assists.

Caruso kept Texas A&M in the game by scoring 11 points in the first 20 minutes. He was the only Aggie with more than four points in the first half.

NOTES: Northern Iowa entered the game on a three-game winning streak in NCAA Tournament games played in Oklahoma City. The Panthers defeated eighth-seeded UNLV and top-seeded Kansas in Oklahoma City in the first two rounds of the 2010 tourney. Northern Iowa kept it going with its buzzer-beating win over sixth-seeded Texas on Friday. ... Texas A&M was trying to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 when, like this season, the Aggies were a No. 3 seed. ... Northern Iowa won its only previous game against the Aggies when the Panthers claimed an 82-70 victory on December 28, 1996, in El Paso, Texas.

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