Paul Jesperson's half-court heave at the buzzer gave the No. 11 seed Northern Iowa Panthers a 75-72 victory over the No. 6 Texas Longhorns on Friday at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena.
As jubilant as the Panthers were, the Longhorns couldn't believe what had just happened.
Jesperson was one of five Northern Iowa players to score in double figures, with 14 points. Wes Washpun led the way with 17, while Jeremy Morgan poured in 16.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports noted how the Panthers seem to have a flare for the dramatic of late:
Northern Iowa has a flair for the dramatic. Back to back buzzer beating wins— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 19, 2016
It wasn't always close, as the Panthers used a 23-2 first-half run to take a 16-point lead and what seemed to be control of the game.
However, it was Texas that was up early 11-4, but the run by Northern Iowa quickly erased the quick start. It happened so fast, ESPN's Freddie Coleman didn't know what hit him:
Wasn't Texas up 7-0 on Northern Iowa?— Freddie Coleman (@ColemanESPN) March 19, 2016
It helped that the Panthers got seven points on one possession due to a flagrant foul from Shaquille Cleare.
At one point, the Panthers connected on 10 straight shots:
No. 11 Northern Iowa has made 10 straight field goals and is leading No. 6 Texas late in the first half https://t.co/XrKmGKk0jT— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 19, 2016
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports took a shot at Shaka Smart's Longhorns, who certainly looked lethargic:
The last time Texas looked this bad, ucla beat it in football 66-3.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 19, 2016
Once Northern Iowa took the double-digit lead, Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald predicted the Panthers would slow the game down and the Longhorns had no chance:
A 16-point deficit to Northern Iowa is like 25 points to the average opponent. Prepare for 28-second possessions in the 2nd half, Texas.— Dirk Chatelain (@dirkchatelain) March 19, 2016
Although they got the win, it didn't quite work out that way.
The Longhorns ended the first 20 minutes on a 7-2 run and only trailed by eight, 44-36. They were lucky to be that close after the Panthers missed just nine total shots.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports noted the strong first-half shooting effort from the Panthers:
Northern Iowa doing work. Shooting 59 pct from the floor, 5 for 9 from three, 13-18 from the line. Jeremy Morgan 12 points on 5 shots.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 19, 2016
But it was the Longhorns who shot well to start the second half after the Panthers were put in a bit of a bind when the senior Washpun picked up his third foul less than a minute in.
Head coach Ben Jacobson elected to leave him in the game, but Texas went on a run and swung momentum the Longhorns' way, per their official Twitter account:
One possession later Eric Davis Jr. swished a three-pointer for Texas' first lead since early in the first half before Kerwin Roach Jr. pushed the lead to four on an alley-oop assisted by Isaiah Taylor.
A Roach layup gave Texas an impressive 17-3 run of its own and a five-point lead.
Robert Flores of ESPN was surprised by the strong Texas comeback:
However, after the big comeback the teams played fairly even the rest of the way, battling down to the final seconds. Washpun finally picked up his fourth foul at the 9:45 mark, but he did not leave the game until hitting free throws a possession later to tie the game at 58-58.
Andy Garman of KCCI-TV noted how the guard seemed to be willing his team to victory:
Washpun is playing his guts out right now. But UNI needs someone else to come up to his level. 1st half Klint Carlson, maybe?— Andy Garman (@GarmanSports) March 19, 2016
The help came in the form of Morgan, whose steal and coast-to-coast layup gave Northern Iowa a 66-62 lead at the 7:15 mark:
Jason Kersey of the Oklahoman noted how the game featured swings in momentum:
Man, it really seemed like Texas had stolen ALL the momentum about six minutes ago. Not so.— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) March 19, 2016
Northern Iowa 66, Texas 62, 6:52 to play
It was back-and-forth in what seemed like a lead change every possession before Taylor, who led Texas with 22 points and six assists, tied the game at 72-72 on a floater with 2.7 seconds left.
Jesperson then hit the game-winner without Northern Iowa calling a timeout in what seemed to be the only way to end this type of game.
It was one where it felt like neither team deserved to lose, but in the end Texas heads home and Northern Iowa moves into a second-round matchup Sunday against the No. 3 seed Texas A&M Aggies.
It should be another hard-fought game considering the Aggies won a share of the SEC regular-season title and coasted in their opening game against the Green Bay Phoenix, 92-65.
Jeff Rabjohns of Rivals.com acknowledged Jesperson will go down in NCAA tournament history forever:
Paul Jesperson, welcome to One Shining Moment, 2016 edition.— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) March 19, 2016
Jesperson talked about the winning shot after the game, per ESPN.com.
"I told those guys I thought it had a chance when it left my hand, because I got it more toward the center of the court," Jesperson said. "But, yeah, when it went in, I looked at my parents, I saw my brother there, both my brothers, and I was extremely happy and grateful that that thing went in."
Jacobson had to feel good for his team, but he also benefited personally from the shot, according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today:
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has $80,000 in bonuses, thanks to buzzer-beating shots by Wes Washpun and Paul Jesperson— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) March 19, 2016
As exciting as the scene was for the Panthers, it was nothing but devastating for Smart and his team, as Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman described immediately following the game:
Texas coach Shaka Smart just put his hands on his head afterward. The players were zombies. UNI went crazy. One shining moment, indeed.— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) March 19, 2016
When Smart had to address his team in the locker room, there wasn't a whole lot of talking, per Mike Finger of the Houston Chronicle.
"There's not much you can say to make them feel better in moments like this," Smart said. "I just told them I love 'em and I'm proud of 'em."
As amazing of a win as it was, it counts the same as any other and the celebration can't last long. Jacobson was already having to answer about his next opponent, Texas A&M, in the postgame presser.
According to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle, the coach knows it will be a stiff test: "It appears to me they've got some of everything (in terms of good players)," the head coach said.
Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.