Much like LSU’s opening game against Yale, the Tigers cruised to a first half lead against Maryland only to find themselves in a dog fight late in the second half. And, just as they did Thursday against the Bulldogs, LSU survived a Terrapin rally and move on to the Sweet 16 thanks to a Tremont Waters lay up with 1.6 seconds to play.
The Tigers (28-6) led by as many as 15 points against the Terrapins (23-11) before surrendering the lead late in the second half. In a frantic final five minutes, LSU and Maryland matched each other shot for shot.
Maryland’s Eric Ayala made a three to put the Terps ahead 60-57; Skylar Mays answered with a three of his own. Maryland’s Bruno Fernando laid in a shot to put his team ahead 62-60 but again, LSU would answer, this time by Javonte Smart. Jalen Smith made a pair of free throws for Maryland, so too would Mays.
LSU and Maryland went back and forth as time ticked down closer and closer to zero. It looked like for a second LSU had iced the game when Mays hit a three with 40 seconds left, but Maryland’s Jalen Smith would answer right back with a three to tie the game at 67 with 25 seconds left. LSU called time and that’s when Tremont Waters cemented himself in LSU lore.
If LSU played as well in the second half of Saturday’s game, maybe there’s no need for Waters’ last second heroics. LSU led 38-29 at the break and led by as many as 15 points in the game. But Maryland switched to a zone defense in the second half that totally perplexed the Tigers and the Terrapins were able to erase the deficit and claim a small lead of their own. At one point LSU was shooting 23 percent in the second half. It took some time, but LSU eventually came up with a plan of attack for Maryland’s zone and that was just to drive right through the heart of the 2-3 zone and get to the rim.
Skylar Mays had 16 points including four threes. Waters had 12. LSU’s starting front court of Naz Reiz and Kavell Bigby-Williams met their match against Maryland’s Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith in both size and skill. Reid had 13 points but needed 14 shots, Bigby-Williams was held to a single basket but was able to grab eight rebounds. Both Tiger big men picked up four fouls.
With Reid and Bigby-Williams in foul trouble, LSU had to rely on its bench and the reserves showed up. Javonte Smart, Darius Days and Emmitt Williams carried the scoring burden early, as the freshman trio accounted for 14 of LSU’s first 18 points. The three finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Maryland’s bench, on the other hand, could only score 13 points, 11 coming from the sharp shooting Aaron Wiggins.
Maryland was one of the few teams in the field that could match LSU’s rebounding prowess and today they beat the Tigers at their own game. Maryland out-rebounded LSU 42-34. But LSU took care of business at the free throw line, hitting 14 of 16 while Maryland was 16 of 23.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a win nonetheless and the Tigers are moving to the tournament’s second weekend. For the first time since its Final Four run in 2006, LSU will be making an appearance in the Sweet 16. LSU will play either Michigan State or Minnesota Wednesday in Washington D.C.