OKLAHOMA CITY — Sometimes, March Madness means the higher seed finds the magic.
No. 3 Texas A&M somehow escaped No. 11 Northern Iowa, coming from 12 points down in the final 35 seconds, to win 92-88 in double overtime, denying the Panthers a second consecutive upset and sending the Aggies improbably to the Sweet 16.
Texas A&M will face No. 2 Oklahoma on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.
Northern Iowa seemed in control and ready to advance to meet the Sooners until the final frenzied seconds of regulation — UNI took a 69-57 lead with the clock stopped at 44 seconds left — and then the Panthers melted down and Texas A&M outscored them 14-2. The Aggies’ intense full-court pressure led to steals and other mistakes and plenty of layups.
BOX SCORE: Texas A&M 92, UNI 88 2OTs
Trapped in the corner with time running out, Northern Iowa guard Wes Washpun tried to knock the ball out of bounds off Admon Gilder’s leg — but Gilder instead grabbed the ball and scored a layup with 1.9 seconds left, tying the game.
Northern Iowa led by one point late in the first overtime, too. But Jeremy Morgan hit only one of two free throws with 20.2 seconds left. Alex Caruso tied it at 83 with an 8-footer with 5.9 seconds left. And Paul Jesperson, who’d beaten Texas with a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot, tried again — this time, with a little too early with about 4 seconds left — but missed, sending the game to a second overtime.
The Aggies finally took control from there — and were helped by foul trouble for Northern Iowa as two starters fouled out. But nothing came easy. Danuel House put it away, finally, with a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Caruso led A&M with 25 points. House added 22 – most in the last few minutes of regulation and in the two overtimes — as the Aggies overcame a frustrating first 39 minutes with an unbelievable explosion.
Morgan’s free throws with 44 seconds left in regulation pushed Northern Iowa up 69-77. But from there the game hit “tilt.”
Gilder scored on a layup, then stole the ball and fed House for a layup with 25 seconds left. Still, the Panthers led by eight.
But Jalen Jones stole and dunked. House hit a 3-pointer.
And after Klint Carlson’s dunk, Caruso converted a three-point play to pull the Aggies within two points with 12 seconds left.
Then Gilder stole it from Washpun and hit the tying layup, sending it incredibly to overtime.
The early moments of the game were tight — it was tied at 15 with 10 minutes left — but Northern Iowa gradually pulled away late in the first half, taking advantage of Texas A&M misses and mistakes. The Aggies were 6-for-27 shooting and had eight turnovers in the half; leading scorers House and Jalen Jones were a combined 0-for-11 in the half.
Jeremy Morgan’s three-pointer with 2:13 left stretched the Panthers’ lead to six points and started a 7-0 run to finish the half. Northern Iowa took a 32-22 lead into the locker room.