North Alabama's KJ Johnson sinks March's first buzzer beater to beat his former team

The first true buzzer beater of college basketball’s postseason doubled as the best possible payback for North Alabama’s K.J. Johnson.

It knocked the Lipscomb transfer’s former school out of the Atlantic Sun tournament on Tuesday night.

With the score tied and 4.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Johnson caught an inbound pass in the backcourt and attacked off the dribble before Lipscomb could set its defense. The 6-foot-3 senior’s heavily contested running one-handed floater from just inside the top of the key propelled North Alabama to a 77-75 Atlantic Sun quarterfinal victory.

Sixth-seeded North Alabama (15-16) led third-seeded Lipscomb (20-12) by as many as 12 points late in the first half, but the host Bisons launched a spirited rally. When Johnson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds left in the second half, Lipscomb’s Owen McCormack made him pay with a game-tying transition 25 footer.

That set the stage for Johnson, a two-time Tennessee Class AA Mr. Basketball who spent the first three years of his college career at Lipscomb. Johnson made the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman team in 2020 and became a full-time starter as a sophomore. He transferred after his junior year when he fell out of Lipscomb’s starting lineup in late January and saw his scoring average plummet from 13.5 points per game to 6.7.

At North Alabama, which only transitioned to Division I six years ago, Johnson has been key to the program’s rise to respectability. The fifth-year senior has started both years in the program and is his team’s second-leading scorer this season.

Now North Alabama is two wins away from an improbable first NCAA tournament bid in program history. The Lions face second-seeded Stetson in the Atlantic Sun semifinals on Thursday with the winner facing either fourth-seeded Austin Peay or 10th-seeded Jacksonville in the title game three nights later.

It would be a surprise if North Alabama can pull off two more victories, but the unlikely seems possible after Johnson’s thunderbolt of a buzzer beater.

Twelve days before Selection Sunday, March is already turning mad.

KJ Johnson's running floater sent North Alabama to the Atlantic Sun semifinals and eliminated his former team. (Screenshot via ESPN+)
KJ Johnson's running floater sent North Alabama to the Atlantic Sun semifinals and eliminated his former team.