Texas A&M’s record-setting men’s basketball season will continue to the Sweet 16, against all odds and despite a flurry of early flaws.
The Aggies, who watched their fans stream toward the exits in Chesapeake Energy Arena while facing an eight-point deficit with 25.8 seconds remaining in regulation, got most of them to do a U-turn and return to watch a comeback for the ages that resulted in a 92-88 victory over Northern Iowa in double overtime.
The Aggies (28-8) established a school record for single-season victories.
A&M outscored UNI 10-2 during the closing stretch of regulation and finally took control of the contest in the second overtime to secure a Thursday berth against Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament in Anaheim, Calif.
The Aggies (28-8) established a school record for single-season victories and emerged as the lone team from the Lone Star State still in contention to reach the Final Four in Houston by turning up the heat in the second overtime as key players for UNI (23-13) began fouling out.
Danuel House, the team’s leading scorer, did not make his first field goal of the contest until there were 25.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
A&M took its first lead of the game in the second overtime on a tip-in by Jalen Jones, giving the team an 85-84 lead it would not relinquish. When UNI trimmed a four-point deficit to 88-86, guard Danuel House made a short jumper in the paint with 57 seconds remaining to extend the lead back to four.
House, the team’s leading scorer, did not make his first field goal of the contest until there were 25.8 seconds remaining in regulation. But he came alive during the overtime sessions and finished with 22 points, well above his season average (15.6).
A&M, the No. 3 seed in the West Region, held off the Panthers the rest of the way to earn Thursday’s matchup against OU, the No. 2 seed in the West Region. The Sooners (27-7) outlasted Virginia Commonwealth 85-81 in Sunday’s early game. It will be A&M’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2007 and, considering the circumstances, might rank as the sweetest in school history.
A&M’s season seemed to be running on fumes with 25.8 seconds remaining. A basket by House, his first of the contest, trimmed the deficit to 69-61 and the Aggies began applying full-court pressure.
UNI’s guards, who had been solid until that point, began wilting. A turnover led to a Jones layup. Another turnover set up a 3-pointer by House with 19.6 seconds remaining.
UNI stemmed the bleeding on a full-court pass to Klint Carlson that produced a run-out dunk and 71-66 lead. But A&M quickly responded with Alex Caruso’s driving layup, plus an and-one free throw. A steal and layup by Admon Gilder after the next inbound pass tied matters at 71-71 with 1.2 seconds remaining, sending the contest into overtime.
UNI’s best player, guard Wes Washpun, fouled out in the first minute of the first overtime. But the teams each scored nine points to send them to a second overtime, tied at 83-83.
A&M finally broke UNI, which eliminated Texas 75-72 on a Friday night buzzer-beater, during the second overtime to turn a set of ghastly early statistics into a shake-your-head footnote to an epic comeback.
After racing to a 5-0 lead in the first minute of action, the remainder of the first half dissolved into a nightmarish mix of missed shots, ill-timed fouls, sloppy turnovers and squandered opportunities for the Aggies. House and Jones, the team’s top scorers, were a combined 0-for-11 from the field in the first half, when A&M shot 22.2 percent from the floor while carving out a 33-22 deficit.
The first-half-only field goals came from Caruso (4), who finished with a team-high 25 points, and center Tyler Davis (2), who spent the final 9:53 of the opening half on the bench because of foul trouble.
Davis departed with the Aggies trailing 17-15. He returned to action at the start of the second half, with A&M facing an 11-point deficit. A&M never overcame that deficit until Gilder’s layup with 1.2 seconds remaining, squaring matters and setting up the decisive overtime periods.
▪ 2. Villanova vs. 3. Miami, 6:10 p.m., KTVT/11
▪ 2. Oklahoma vs. 3. Texas A&M, 6:37 p.m., TBS
▪ 1. Kansas vs. 5. Maryland, 8:40 p.m., KTVT/11
▪ 1. Oregon vs. 4. Duke, 8:55 p.m., TBS
▪ 1. Virginia vs. 4. Iowa State, 6:10 p.m., KTVT/11
▪ 6. Notre Dame vs. 7. Wisconsin, 6:27 p.m., TBS
▪ 1. North Carolina vs. 5. Indiana, 8:57 p.m., TBS
▪ 10. Syracuse vs. 11. Gonzaga, 8:40 p.m., KTVT/11