As the buzzer sounded Jalen Smith bent over in tears.
The freshman forward’s 3-pointer with 28 seconds left tied the game at 67, helping Maryland climb back from a 15-point deficit to give the Terps a chance to advance to a Sweet Sixteen game in Washington, D.C., but a late game-winning layup by LSU’s Tremont Waters with 1.7 seconds left sealed a dramatic 69-67 win for the Tigers.
The Terps missed seven free throws on the game (16-for-23), including five in the second half and two in the final three minutes by Smith.
Maryland finishes with a record of 23-11 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Maryland’s zone worked wonders to neutralize LSU’s size
Early in the second half, Maryland had allowed their nine-point halftime deficit stretch to 13, due in part to head coach Mark Turgeon earning a technical foul for arguing an offensive foul called on sophomore big man Joshua Tomaic.
LSU sank two free throws to stretch the lead to 15, but out of the timeout the Terps switched to a zone, a scheme they have used sparingly this season. The notable exception was against Minnesota on the road when the Terps turned a deficit into a comfortable win thanks to a similar second-half defensive adjustment.
After Turgeon’s technical, Maryland went on runs of 13-3 and 12-1 late in the second half to eventually take its first lead of the game 57-55 on two free throws from Smith.
Maryland’s comeback appeared to have fallen just short when LSU’s Skylar Mays sank a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, but Smith’s corner triple on the next possession tied the game to give the Terps a chance with less than 30 seconds to play.
On the final play of the game, Maryland appeared to switch back to man-to-man allowing LSU to set a high ball screen for Waters who drove past Smith to sink the game-clinching layup.
2. The anticipated big man matchup didn’t live up to the hype
Coming into the game, the big storyline was Maryland’s front line of 6-foot-10-inch Smith and 6-foot-10-inch sophomore center Bruno Fernando versus LSU’s Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams, 6 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 11 inches tall, respectively. The much-talked-about matchup didn’t pan out as Reid and Bigby-Williams were bothered by foul trouble and Maryland settled for a barrage of 3-pointers -- 18 in the first half and 10 in the second -- which limited Fernando’s touches.
The Angolan was held to two points on four shots in the first half and finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season. Reid was held to 13 points and four rebounds while Bigby-Williams had two points and eight boards. Both LSU big men had double-doubles in a first-round win against Yale.
Smith put in the most impressive performance of the four, leading his team for the second straight game with 15 points, five rebounds and five blocks, including one on Reid to preserve a one-point Maryland lead in the waning minutes.
In two games Smith combined for 33 points and 20 rebounds, an impressive stat line for the freshman who will be eager to come back next season.
3. Cowan had a tournament performance to forget
Junior guard Anthony Cowan appeared to have put his poor first round performance behind him early in the game
by sinking Maryland’s first 3-pointer of the game. But he missed his next five shots and wouldn’t score for more than 20 minutes before sinking consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half to help jumpstart Maryland’s comeback.
Cowan did appear to be bothered by an ankle injury after an LSU player landed on him during a scramble for a loose ball, but he played through any he pain he may have been feeling.
His final points came at the 8:58 mark on a driving layup to cut the deficit to 55-51.
Cowan’s second NCAA Tournament appearance was one he will likely dwell on during the offseason ahead of his final year in College Park, Md. In two games the junior shot a combined 7-of-29 and 4-of-16 from 3-point range.
4. Aaron Wiggins once again showed his explosive offensive potential
With his team trailing by 15 points at two different points in the first half, freshman guard Aaron Wiggins helped the Terps pull back into a game that was teetering on becoming a blowout. Wiggins hit three first-half 3-pointers, including a pair in the span of 57 seconds to give the Terps a more manageable nine-point halftime deficit.
Wiggins was the lone bright spot on a short bench for Turgeon’s team which looked gassed at times against the speedy Tigers. He scored just two more points in the second half to finish with 11, but his ability to create his own offense in the first half was critical in giving the Terps a chance after the break.
Wiggins finished the season as the only Terp outside of Fernando, Smith and Cowan to lead the team in scoring more than once.
5. LSU’s bench outmatched Maryland’s and exposed a lack of depth
Just over eight minutes into the game, LSU led 18-11 thanks to 14 points from their bench compared to zero bench points by Maryland. By halftime, the margin was 20-11 and would have been far bigger if not for Wiggins' hot shooting.
Outside of Wiggins, Maryland reserves played a combined 11 minutes, including 26 seconds from Tomaic. Midway through the first half, Reid pinned freshman forward Ricky Lindo Jr. in the post and caught a pass from his fellow big Bigby-Williams for a dunk. On another play, Serrel Smith Jr. was out-muscled for an offensive rebound and called for a foul.
The pair were unable to give Maryland’s starters a rest, which showed late in the game as Fernando, who played a team-high 38 minutes, was visibly exhausted just before the final media timeout.
LSU won the final bench scoring margin 26-13.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox