Northern Iowa lost an NCAA Tournament game Sunday night in perhaps the most crushing way possible. When you’re up 12 points with 44 seconds to go, that’s a game you’re supposed to win. But the Panthers didn’t. They lost to Texas A&M, 92-88, in double overtime.
In the moment, the Panthers were devastated. In the aftermath, they held their heads high.
“In a lot of ways, it has been extremely rewarding to see the way in which our guys have handled themselves,” Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “That part of it, their decision to handle it the way they have, the maturity at the age that they are, to have those circumstances happen on the biggest stage – and then make the decision that this is how we’re going to handle it, this is how we’re going to move forward, we are going to move forward, we are going to celebrate the year that we had and to be able to focus on those things – that, to me, has been the most impressive part of it. That has also allowed me to be able to do the same thing as their coach, watching those three seniors in particular handle themselves that way. . . . We’re moving forward. We had a great weekend and we’re moving forward.”
It was a heartbreaking end for Northern Iowa (23-13), which was seeking its first Sweet 16 since 2010. Even worse, it was the biggest last-minute collapse in NCAA Division I history. The previous record was 11 points, which has happened twice – once by UNLV in 2005 and once by Canisius in December.
What went wrong Sunday night?
“Two things I would say,” Jacobson said. “The one that I would talk about it is (Matt) Bohannon is our in-bounder, and you know as a former player and doing this your whole life the importance of that person. (His injury) was the one thing that had us in different spots. Outside of that, I haven’t really gone through all of the individual plays that happened. I know what they were, but like we’ve talked about, I’ve just made the decision that in a lot of ways, this was a fluke deal – kind of a one-in-a-million type of thing where everything had to go absolutely perfect for that score to be tied in 44 seconds – and it happened to take place. It is what it is.”
Just about everyone has had something to say about Northern Iowa’s loss, including LeBron James, who said he would quit basketball if he played for Northern Iowa.
Jacobson wasn’t bothered by James’ comment.
“One, it sounded to me like he was playing along and having some fun with it, as opposed to talking about what our guys should do or what our program should do under these circumstances,” Jacobson said. But I don’t know. I don’t know what he meant by it. And two, and I (mean) this in the nicest way possible, (but), ’Who cares?’ is my second reaction. Whether it’s him or anybody else, depending on how he meant it, it doesn’t have any impact on what our guys think about each other and what they think about our program, and it doesn’t have any impact on me in terms of how I feel about our guys and how I feel about our program. . . . Our guys know exactly who we are. Our guys know exactly what happened, and they’ve already owned it and they’ve decided to move forward. So it doesn’t make any difference to me or our program what anybody else thinks.”