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March Madness rewind: Northern Iowa’s half court buzzer-beater is still memorable today

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Northern Iowa v Texas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As March Madness is almost here, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the best viral moments in NCAA tournament history. Here is Mid-Major Madness’ take on UNI’s buzzer-beater in 2016:

There are few shots that encapsulate the madness of March quite like Paul Jesperson’s half-court heave at the buzzer in 2016.

It had been a heck of a season for the Panthers — they stunned top-ranked North Carolina at home in McLeod Center, then proceeded to punch their ticket to the Big Dance on a buzzer-beater from Wes Washpun at Arch Madness. It was only appropriate that they etch themselves into March Madness history to cap things off.

As the 11 seed, UNI found themselves matched up with six seed Texas. The Longhorns entered the game with a breezy confidence–and committed the crucial mistake of underestimating Jake and the Giant Killers. The Panthers kept the entire game close, and as the clock stopped with 2.7 seconds to go, it was all tied up at 72. Coach Ben Jacobson had made it clear to his team that he wouldn’t call for a time out.

Senior Matt Bohannon stepped out to inbound the ball, and then enter the hero: Paul Jesperson.

Jesperson, a 6’6 guard who had transferred from Virgina two years prior, took off down the court as soon as he’d caught Bohannon’s eye. He clapped for the ball, and Bohanon heaved a pass that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a football field. With two defenders straight in front of him as he ran towards the half court, Jesperson opted to trade the chance to be closer to the hoop for an open look.

With the casual confidence that comes from being a member of Ben Jacobson’s program, Jesperson launched a three. The arena fell silent as the ball arced towards the hoop.

With a satisfying thunk off the backboard, the ball dropped in and pandemonium erupted.

UNI’s bench emptied onto the court the second the ball passed the rim, dodging stunned Texas players as they went. The final buzzer was lost in the screaming of Panther fans. The players dogpiled onto Paul Jesperson.

The final measurement from the NCAA? Fifty feet. Jesperson etched his name into the NCAA record books as the longest game-winning buzzer-beater ever made.