UNI is a good team, but even better at being lucky

If buzzer-beating shots are the lifeblood of the NCAA tournament, then Northern Iowa is definitely living large these days.
Ben Jacsobsen’s Panthers have now won their last two games on last-gasp heaves.
Perhaps the game-winner in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game in St. Louis wasn’t that unexpected. After all, the ball was in the hands of UNI’s top player, Wes Washpun and he had time to pick his spot at the top of the key with the score tied, 54-54. He also had time to pick his his moment against D.J. Balentine, the University of Evansville star who had the challenge of defending the crafty Washpun.
As we know all too well (and have seen much too often since that day two weeks ago), Washpun was up to the challenge. And even then, it took an astonishing lucky bounce high off the back of the rim to give UNI the win.
But what Paul Jesperson did Friday night in UNI’s 75-72 win over No. 6 seed Texas in an NCAA tournament first round game in Oklahoma City was as miraculous as it gets. His half-court heave with the game tied found nothing but net.
“The one last night, that was incredible,” said UE head coach Marty Simmons, who said he had just tuned in to the final few minutes of the game to see what the Panthers would do with that NCAA berth they stole from the Aces.
The Panthers done good – that’s all.
The win at that point made the MVC 3-0 in March Madness, earning perhaps a little more respect for the conference (even if that won’t do the Aces any good now).
Simmons said that when TBS showed a replay of the Washpun dagger against UE in the final minutes of the Texas game, he was inclined to hit the off button on his TV. But he stuck around for the final drama.
But it did bring back the memories (or nightmares).
“I’m not sure you ever recover from something like that,” said Simmons. “I think it will probably stick with us all for a long time for a lot of different reasons.”
Simmons is just proud of the way the Aces battled back to briefly take the lead after trailing by as many as 17 points.
But as much as the loss still stings, Simmons will be pulling for UNI on Sunday against Texas A&M, especially after Wichita State was bounced on Saturday by Miami.
“I suppose we got a little lucky at the end, right,” Jacobsen said of the win over Texas. “But these guys have found a way and they’ve continued to find a way, so I’m happy for these guys.”

This entry was posted in College Basketball, College Sports by Randy Beard. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Beard

Randy Beard has been at the Courier & Press since 2007 and became the sports editor in 2012. He has previously been a sports editor at the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat. He began his professional sports journalist career in 1976 and has spent his career primarily covering college sports in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. He's also covered the NFL, the original North American Soccer League and professional tennis and golf. He's covered two Super Bowls, three college football national championship games, dozens of NCAA basketball tournament games, an Olympics, a World Cup and once hung out with soccer legend George Best for two days and sat in a golf cart with Jan Stephenson.

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