JACKSONVILLE — Sophomore guard Tremont Waters came through for LSU in the biggest moment in 13 years. With the game tied at 67, Waters hit a layup with 1.6 seconds to give No. 3 LSU a 69-67 win over No. 6 Maryland in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament and send back the Tigers back to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2006.
To start the game, LSU’s freshman bench trio came out on fire in the first half. Forward Darius Days came in early in the first half and quickly scored five points. Then came a wave of scoring by guard Javonte Smart and forward Emmitt Williams.
The three combined to score 14 straight points and 14 of LSU’s first 18 points in the game as the Tigers led by seven halfway through the first half. LSU’s bench finished the game with 26 points – Days had 10, Smart nine and Williams with seven.
“Well, we have eight starters,” said LSU interim coach Tony Benford. “I think we have the best eight players in the country when you watch us play. We have eight starters. All those guys have been in the starting lineup all year. They've all made plays and really contributed.”
LSU’s defense showed up as well in the first half on Saturday. After taking a 20-15 lead, LSU held Maryland scoreless for 4 ½ minutes and 0-of-6 from the field in that span. LSU stretched its lead to 15 during that period before 8-2 run by Maryland cut the lead to 33-23 with under four minutes to play.
Junior guard Skylar Mays closed out the first half strong for LSU with two three pointers, but back-to-back three pointers by Maryland’s Aaron Wiggins in the final minute trimmed LSU’s lead to 38-29 entering the break.
LSU started fast once again to open the second half with an 8-2 run to get the lead back up to 15, but then Maryland switched its defense, alternating between a 2-3 and 3-2 zone, and LSU fell into a slump.
Maryland went on an 8-0 run to get the lead into single digits, but Days broke it up with his second three of the game to get LSU’s lead back to 10. Maryland kept chipping away at the lead and got the game within five points at the 11-minute mark.
The Terrapins’ zone continued to stall LSU’s offense, and the Tigers made only one field goal over the next eight minutes, shooting 1-of-14 from the field and 0-of-8 from three. With LSU unable to score, Maryland attacked the paint with LSU’s bigs in foul trouble and went on a 12-1 run to take a 57-55 lead.
Freshman forward Naz Reid tied the game at 57 with a layup, and then both teams exchanged three’s and a layup to keep the game deadlocked at 62-62 with 2:57 left in the game.
Maryland’s Jalen Smith split two pairs of free throws to take a two-point lead, but Mays earned two free throws on the other end to tie it back at 64.
After a defensive stop, Mays caught the ball on the wing in traffic and buried a three pointer to give LSU a 67-64 lead. Out of a timeout, Smith was left open in the corner and responded with a three of his own for Maryland.
Benford called for a timeout with 19.5 on the clock with the shot clock turned off. During the final possession, Waters got the ball and waited on the wing as clock ran down. Waters said they wanted the last shot and didn’t want to give Maryland another chance to score on the other end.
Finally, Waters moved to the middle of the floor and called for a screen to his right. He drove to his right around a double team and to the basket where he lofted a layup off the backboard for the game-winning basket.
“We told Naz, whoever is up there if they're in the zone, just screen that guy and put a body on him,” Benford said. “Naz did a great job and Tre -- and great players make great plays, and he made a great play.
Waters finished the game with 12 points and five assists, and Mays led the team in points  for the second straight game. LSU will play the winner of either No. 2 Michigan State or No. 10 Minnesota in Washington D.C. next weekend.