Texas A&M looks to stay focused against Northern Iowa

Texas A&M looks to stay focused against Northern Iowa

Published Mar. 20, 2016 12:07 a.m. ET

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Paul Jesperson had the expected barrage of text messages and voicemails waiting on him following his half-court miracle that beat Texas on Friday night.

But the senior quickly put his shining NCAA Tournament moment behind him -- preferring instead to wake up Saturday morning with his full focus on Northern Iowa's second-round matchup with Texas A&M.

The decision about how to handle the postgame celebration following the victory over the Longhorns was left up to Jesperson and his teammates.

Rather than telling the 11th-seeded Panthers (23-12) to forget the unforgettable win and turn their full attention to the third-seeded Aggies (27-8), Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson embraced the moment -- and the excitement of the school's fourth NCAA Tournament victory since 2010.


It was in 2010 that Northern Iowa shared a similar national spotlight as Friday night, defeating top-seeded Kansas to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. And it was during that run that Jacobson learned to fully trust his players, as well as preach enjoyment over stress come tournament time.

"I keep wanting to turn the page and get on to the next thing," Jacobson said. "But Jesperson keeps reminding me that I told them we're going to enjoy the stuff that's worth enjoying."

Friday's dramatic victory was nothing new for the Panthers, who used a similar buzzer-beating approach two weeks ago to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and earn their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

They have won 13 of their last 14 games after standing at 10-11 at one point in January, and they've done so thanks to multiple last-second shots -- all of which have led them back to the second round for a second straight year.

And it's a position they plan on enjoying for as long as they can, all at the advice of their coach.

"(Jacobson) said, `You guys can enjoy it for 10 minutes, you can enjoy it tomorrow morning, however you want to handle it, handle it,'" Jesperson said.

"We did that same thing after the conference tournament, and it worked out perfect for us there."

Some things to watch as Northern Iowa tries to regroup from Friday's buzzer beater:

INEXPERIENCED AGGIES: Texas A&M is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Its win against Green Bay in the first round was its first tournament victory since 2010 -- the same year coach Billy Kennedy won his only tournament game while the coach at Murray State.

RIGHT AT HOME: Northern Iowa has reached the NCAA Tournament four times in Jacobson's 10 seasons as coach, including last season when it lost in the second round as a No. 5 seed to fourth-seeded Louisville. The school's lone Sweet 16 appearance came during the 2010 run that included the win over Kansas.

POSTED DAVIS: One of the areas the Aggies figure to have the biggest advantage on Sunday night is inside, where 6-foot-10 center Tyler Davis dominated at times with 12 points in the opening-round win over Green Bay. The freshman also tied for the team high with seven rebounds, leading Texas A&M to a 45-25 rebounding edge. "He's bigger and stronger than most people he plays against," Kennedy said.

SIXTEEN HOPES: The last time Texas A&M reached the Sweet 16 was in 2007, when it was also a No. 3 seed.