Texas A&M pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history — likely even college basketball history — erasing a 12 point deficit with just over 30 seconds remaining in regulation before finally defeating the Northern Iowa Panthers in double overtime on Sunday.
The most unlikely of victories sent the Aggies to the Sweet Sixteen and stunned the upset-minded Panthers, who appeared to have the win locked up.
With just one minute left in the second half, the game seemed all but over. After a pair of Jeremy Morgan free throws with 44 seconds remaining, Northern Iowa had a 12-point lead.
But the Texas A&M Aggies cranked up the defensive pressure, forcing four consecutive turnovers and converting all of them into easy baskets. The final one came with less than ten seconds remaining, when Wes Washpun tried to throw the ball off Aggies defender Admon Gilder but Gilder stepped back and stole the ball, taking it in for the game-tying layup.
The entire comeback can be seen here:
The Aggies completed the comeback in double overtime, winning 92-88.
The win set an NCAA record for largest comeback in the last minute of a game. The previous record happened twice, by UNLV in 2005 and Canisius in December. But Sunday’s comeback went one step further, taking place almost entirely within the last 30 seconds.
“Craziest game I’ve been a part of from beginning to end,” said Alex Caruso, who finished with 25 points for the Aggies. “Just an amazing game. This is what March is about.”
Amazingly, Texas A&M was able to complete the comeback without completing a single three-pointer during the frenzied stretch. They attempted one, a miss that turned into an offensive rebound an an easy layup.
“We played the game the right way, even at the end,” said Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who told ESPN that he needed some time to fully comprehend what had just happened. “We didn’t have guys just coming down jacking up 3s. We tried to drive the ball.”
There were some incredible individual performances for the Aggies, including Danuel House who scored 22 points — after scoring 0 for the first 35 minutes of the game.
After the win, House said his team just wasn’t ready to stop playing.
“Coming back in the huddle with less than a minute left and seeing the freshmen and [their] fight…. They kept telling us, encouraging us, to come on, that we’ve still got a lot of time left,” House said. “We just didn’t want to go home, didn’t want the season to end.”
As ESPN noted, it was a combination of errors, fatigue, and foul trouble that did Northern Iowa in.
And in the second, the surging Aggies finally wore down a hobbled and short-handed Northern Iowa team missing two of its starters after fouling out. It was House who capped the scoring with a free throw with 12.6 seconds remaining to give Texas A&M a 92-88 lead, with a most unexpected and euphoric celebration following moments later on the Chesapeake Arena court.
The Aggies have now won 10 of their last 11 games entering next week’s Sweet 16, but few — if any — will top Sunday night.
“I’ve never been a part of a game like that, never saw one,” Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. “(I) still really don’t know what happened.”
With the win, the Aggies will go on to face second-seeded Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen. They go into the game as two point favorites.
[Picture by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]