Nothing’s been easy this year for Maryland.
And so it was on Friday in a first-round NCAA Tournament game against South Dakota State at the Arena. The Terrapins started fast but struggled to finish again.
But finish they did, despite missing four of their last five shots, losing their best player to foul trouble and committing what coach Mark Turgeon called some “silly fouls” down the stretch.
Finally, with the Terrapins clinging to a 3-point lead in the waning seconds, guards Jaylen Brantley and Rasheed Sulaimon teamed up on a game-saving steal to give Maryland to a 79-74 win and a spot in the round of 32 on Sunday against Hawaii.
“I’m just really proud of the guys,” said Turgeon, whose team had lost five of its previous eight games. “They’re advancing and beat a really good team that wouldn’t quit and made some big free throws and big shots down the stretch.”
Most of them were made by senior Jake Layman, a versatile 6-foot-9 forward and one of three Terrapins with legit NBA prospects. As South Dakota State took away guard Melo Trimble and big man Diamond Stone in the second half, it fell to Layman to win the game on his terms – with a sweet 3-point shot from the corner and strong drive to the basket.
“I was playing with confidence today, and the shot felt good,” said Layman, who had a game-high 27 points while hitting 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and all eight foul shots. Four of those came in the last minute as Maryland managed to hold off a late South Dakota State rally.
“He’s the one that probably won the game for them. He hit some big shots and made big plays for them,” said SDSU coach Scott Nagy, who admitted he was in a pick-your-poison situation against the fifth-seeded Terrapins.
To their credit, the Jackrabbits didn’t go into a hole after going 9 for 34 from the field – including 4 for 17 from long range – in the first half and trailing 34-22 at intermission.
“We didn’t really make any adjustments,” Nagy said. “Now, we took less 3s, which was good. We went inside more.”
The move didn’t pay off immediately – the Jackrabbits still trailed 64-46 with 8 minutes left. But Trimble fouled out with 1:45 left and the Terrapins fouled a 3-point shooter a few moments later.
With 18 seconds left, Layman drove the lane and made both free throws after a foul by Keaton Moffitt. Four seconds later, the Terps again fouled on a 3-point shot, and Deondre Parks hit all three foul shots.
Finally, after Jaylen Brantley hit a single free throw with 12 seconds left, SDSU had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer, but Brantley forced a bad pass that Sulaimon picked off for a game-clinching layup.
“In the end, we did what we had to do,” Turgeon said.
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