JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tremont Waters drove by three defenders and scooped in a banking layup with 1.6 seconds remaining to give third-seeded LSU a 69-67 victory over sixth-seeded Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Maryland’s Eric Ayala got off a final shot from midcourt, but it didn’t reach the rim.
LSU players mobbed Waters under the basket. They could have done the same to Skylar Mays, who scored 16 points and hit a huge 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining that put the Tigers (28-6) up 67-64.
Jalen Smith answered on the other end, sending the packed crowd into a frenzy and prompting LSU to call timeout.
Interim coach Tony Benford called a final play for Waters, the dynamic sophomore who has been terrific all season.
Water got a pick from big man Naz Reid, drove into the lane and somehow got off the winner.
Suspended coach Will Wade could only celebrate from afar. His team is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
Wade was banished indefinitely after details emerged about him talking to a recruiting middleman about a “strong ass offer” he made to a high schooler. If true, Wade clearly violated NCAA rules.
Maryland fans had some fun with the allegations.
One fan unhappy with the refs yelled “How much did Will Wade pay you?” Others chanted “Where’s your coach?” during timeouts.
Regardless, the Tigers advanced in the East without Wade and mired in controversy.
Waters finished with 12 points and five assists.
Maryland (23-11) rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half to make it a nail-biter down the stretch.
The Terrapins trailed 46-31 with 16 minutes remaining after coach Mark Turgeon was hit with a technical foul. But the call seemed to ignite — or maybe infuriate — Maryland.
Smith led Maryland with 15 points. Bruno Fernando added 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Maryland entered the postseason with the fourth-youngest team in the country, according to KenPom. Kentucky is the only team in the NCAA field with a younger roster. So the Terrapins could be in position for another run in 2020.
LSU improve to 13-5 in games decided by six points of less, and Waters has been a big reason for the late-game success.
Maryland waits to see what 6-foot-10 forward Bruno Fernando does regarding the NBA. The sophomore entered the draft after his freshman season, but returned to school and averaged 13.7 points and 10.5 rebounds.
LSU will play the Minnesota-Michigan State winner in Washington D.C. on Friday.
LSU interim coach Tony Benford about the clutch plays by Skylar Mays & Tremont Waters:
“I know Wayde (Sims) is watching over us”#LSU #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/wevSau5u7p— Brian Holland (@BHollandSports) March 23, 2019