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Andy Wittry | | February 23, 2022

NCAA Video Vault: Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson sinks longest game-winning buzzer-beater in March Madness history

Watch Paul Jesperson's half-court buzzer-beater to beat Texas

In his five-year college career, Paul Jesperson, a 6-foot-6 guard who spent two seasons at Virginia before transferring to Northern Iowa, with a redshirt season sandwiched in between, was a 38.6-percent 3-point shooter, which is well above the annual national average that typically fluctuated between 34 and 35 percent during his playing days.

But there aren't stats — at least those that are publicly available, mainstream and easily digestible — to quantify the likelihood of Jesperson making the fourth and final 3-pointer that he sank on the night of March 18, 2016. But you don't need stats to tell you that it was a long shot, in every literal and metaphorical sense of the phrase.

Somehow, even calling it a 3-pointer, while perfectly factual, feels like an understatement.

As part of's NCAA Video Vault series, we took a deep dive into Jesperson's buzzer-beater against Texas in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament, a March Madness moment that more than meets the mantra for the month.

'He said he wouldn't take a timeout in this situation'

The sequence technically starts, for all intents and purposes, with a thud after a missed free throw by Northern Iowa guard Wes Washpun. He had gone to the line for two free throws and with the No. 11-seeed Panthers leading the No. 6-seeded Texas Longhorns 72-70 and 11.9 seconds remaining, his second attempt clanked off the front iron.

It was an unforgiving sound on the end of the floor in front of Northern Iowa's bench.

Texas guard Kerwin Roach scooped up the ball and passed it off to teammate Isaiah Taylor.

"Texas will have a chance to tie or win it with a 3," play-by-play broadcaster Carter Blackburn said.

Taylor made a move to the basket, without too much resistance from the Panthers, before stopping and rising for a mid-range floater with his right hand. Just 2.7 seconds remained and Northern Iowa, which had marched on a 23-2 run to nearly double up Texas with a 33-17 lead in the first half, was now in danger of going into overtime against a Longhorns squad that featured eight former consensus top-100 recruits.

"And he said he wouldn't take a timeout in this situation," said color commentator Mike Gminski, referring to Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson.

If you believe in announcer jinxes or curses — you know, when a broadcaster waxes poetic about a player's streak of consecutively made free throws, or lack of turnovers or foul trouble, only for that event to happen soon thereafter — well, then that line on the national airwaves was the opposite. Because as Gminski was wrapping up the final syllables of "situation," Jesperson was taking a crossover dribble, his first and only on the game's final play,

With two Texas defenders who had immediately blocked Jesperson's forward momentum, the Panthers guard had to use his one dribble to essentially drive parallel to the halfcourt line, just so he could get a step closer to his target and have a cleaner angle at the kind of shot that's typically only attempted at the end of a practice or as part of a bet.

In total, there were four Texas players in or around Jesperson's airspace, with Texas' 6-foot-10 Connor Lammert mounting the last line of defense.

Jesperson then pulled up from the crest of the "C" in the March Madness logo at midcourt.

"Jesperson, half-court heave, for the win," said Blackburn, on the broadcast, as he dragged out the final word and elevated his voice in exclamation as the ball banked in off the backboard.

"Got it! Jesperson makes it! Northern Iowa wins it at the buzzer," Blackburn continued amid the pure pandemonium of when a 22-win Missouri Valley Conference team upsets one of the biggest brands in all of college athletics on a banked-in buzzer-beater. "An all-time NCAA tournament shot from Paul Jesperson."

The final measurement put Jesperson 50 feet from the basket he was firing at. That's the distance of a yardstick beyond half-court, a record-setting distance that places the fifth-year senior from Merrill, Wisc., as the owner of the longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the history of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

WATCH: See more than 50 March Madness buzzer-beaters, all in the same YouTube playlist

Just two days later, Northern Iowa experienced the other side of the metaphorical March Madness coin, as just after the Panthers won on the deepest game-winner in NCAA tournament history they then endured the biggest late-game collapse in the sport's history, as No. 3 seed Texas A&M erased a 12-point deficit in 34 seconds against Northern Iowa and won in double overtime to advance to the Sweet 16.

We broke down every play in that ferocious comeback, down to the number of dribbles, in another installment of our NCAA Video Vault series.

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