The Round of 32 kicked off with a bang on Saturday in Jacksonville.
The LSU Tigers and Maryland Terrapins locked horns in a battle of wits to see who was going to Washington D.C. And in the end, the Fighting Tigers prevailed over the Terps thanks to a last-second layup by Tremont Waters. And despite a shroud of controversy, LSU basketball has marched on to the Sweet 16 after the dramatic 69-67 victory.
The two teams traded blows for much of the final minutes of the game. LSU held a 55-49 edge at the 9:26 mark of the second half. But the Terps went on a 6-0 run to go up 57-55. That run was spurred by buckets from Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, and free throws from Smith and Bruno Fernando.
Naz Reid would answer with a jumper to stop the bleeding and tie the game up at 57. That’s when the teams really started to dish out big shots. Eric Ayala knocked down a big 3-pointer to go up 60-57 with 5:10 remaining. But that bomb was answered by Skylar Mays, who knocked down one of his own to even things up at 60.
Fernando then gave the Terps a 62-60 lead, but Ja’Vonte Smart went right back at the Terps and hit a jumper to even things up yet again. Smith then went to the free throw line later to give Maryland the lead again, but once again, LSU was there to answer. This time, Skylar Mays hit free throws to even things up. And after an empty possession by Maryland, Mays gave LSU their first lead in almost nine minutes of action with a long 3-pointer.
Was Maryland done yet? Absolutely not. Smith then knocked down a triple from the corner to knot things up at 67. The frenetic back and forth action was set to either go to OT or land in LSU’s favor, as the Tigers had the ball with the shot clock turned off. That set the stage for Waters, who drove to the lane and scooped the ball up and into the net to give LSU the 69-67 edge. A long heave went unanswered for the Terps, and LSU were the ones to celebrate on the floor.
Waters’ bucket gave him 12 points on the day, as he was one of four LSU Tigers to finish in double figures. It was Mays who led the team in scoring with 16 points of his own. Reid chipped in 13 meanwhile, and Darius Days scored 10. Ja’Vonte Smart finished a point shy of double figures with nine, Emmitt Williams put up seven and Kavell Bigby-Williams scored two.
Maryland, meanwhile, had five players score in double figures the loss. It was Jalen Smith who led the team in points with 15. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Aaron Wiggins, meanwhile, scored 11 and then Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell dropped in 10. Eric Ayala scored eight points, while Ricky Lindo Jr. dropped in two.
The loss was certainly a crusher for the Terps, but an uplifting one for the Fighting Tigers, meanwhile. As they deal with quite a bit of news surrounding them, they will now march on to Washington D.C. and play either the Michigan State Spartans or the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the right to play in the Elite Eight.