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Waters' Layup Lifts LSU to NCAA Sweet 16

by Todd Politz (@tpolitz)
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Waters' Layup Lifts LSU to NCAA Sweet 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tremont Waters‘ layup with 1.6 seconds remaining put the third-seeded LSU Men’s Basketball team in the NCAA Sweet 16, 69-67, over No. 6 seed Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

After leading by nine at the half and as many as 15 in the game, LSU (28-6) found tough sledding against the Maryland (23-10) zone in the second half – 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) before Waters’ layup to be exact. The Terps rallied to take a lead for the first time with 5:52 to play. The game was tied six times in the closing minutes.

With six seconds left and the game tied at 67-67, Waters made a move across the right side of the key, got a screen from Naz Reid up top, dribbled through three defenders, and used another screen from Kavell Bigby-Williams to fend off a block attempt of his scooping layup that kissed off the off the glass and was caught by the left-front rim for his 12th points of the game.

As LSU’s bench erupted, Maryland’s three-quarter court heave hit the top of the backboard, sending the Tigers’ faithful into a frenzy.

Worsham: Waters, Mays Deliver Magical March Moments

LSU advanced to play in its 10th round of 16 game in program history, its fifth in the 64/68 team era (since 1985).

Waters, who scored his 1,000th career point early in the second half, finished with 12 points, five assists and two steals. For the second time in as many games, Skylar Mays led the Tigers in scoring with 14 points including a three pointer with 40 seconds to play that gave the Tigers a short-lived three-point lead.

Reid managed 13 points against the Terps’ pair of 6-10 rim protectors who collected seven blocked shots. Darius Days, Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams combined for 26 points off the bench with 20 coming in the first half. 

Worsham: Sixth Man, Eight Starters Propel Tigers to Sweet 16

LSU managed only 36.9 percent from the field, including 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) in the second half when Maryland’s zone stymied the Tigers offense. LSU’s defense was strong as well, holding Maryland to 33.3 percent (21 of 63) with 9-of-28 from three-point range.

Forward Jalen Smith led Maryland (23-10) with 15 points and five blocked shots, while fellow 6-10 forward Bruno Fernando had 10 points and 15 rebounds. 

With the victory, LSU (28-6) improved to 13-4 away from home in 2018-19 including 9-0 in SEC regular-season play. Only three LSU squads have won more than 13 games away from home in a season: 1980 (16), 1981 and 1987 (14).

The Tigers’ 28 wins is the most by an LSU squad since 1999-2000, when John Brady‘s Tigers won 28 en route to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Next Up

LSU will square off with No. 2-seeded Michigan State in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 29, at 6 p.m. CT. Visit for ticket information.

The Tigers have faced the Spartans only once in program history, an 87-71 Michigan State victory by Tournament Most Outstanding Player Magic Johnson and the eventual 1979 NCAA national champions in Indianapolis.

LSU-Maryland Recap

Reserves gave the Tigers a boost in in the opening stages of the game, as a tip-in by Darius Days and a three-point play Emmitt Williams gave the Tigers a 13-7 lead with 12:51 left. Smart added a three from the top of the key to bring the Tigers’ faithful to their feet an extend LSU’s advantage to 18-11 as Maryland struggled to a 4-of-18 start from the field.

LSU continued to turn terrific defense and rebounding into offensive opportunities. As Maryland went on another scoring drought, Days and Reid both hit a pair of free throws before Waters’ layup gave LSU a 26-15 lead with 6:27 to play.

Smart’s steal led to a fast-break layup, and a perfect pass from Waters to Williams gave LSU another easy basket and a 30-15 lead with 5:24 left in the half.

After a 1-for-11 start, Maryland was able to quell the LSU run with consecutive three pointers by Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell. However, Mays answered with two three pointers of his own to maintain a 36-23 lead.

A perfectly executed pass from Waters to Reid in the paint led to a dunk and LSU’s 20th paint point in the half.

Maryland’s Wiggins hit consecutive three pointers and trailed 38-29 at halftime.

The Tigers had 20 bench points from an eight-man rotation, as Days and Smart had seven each and Williams had six.

LSU held Maryland to 28.6 percent from the field (10 of 35), though the Terrapins made four of their five first-half three pointers in the final 5:05 of the half to keep the game in single digits.

The Tigers again came out of the lockerroom on a mission, outscoring a frustrated Maryland squad 6-2 and forcing a timeout leading 44-31 with 16:10 remaining.

Waters accounted for four of the LSU points including his 1,000th career point at the 17:49 mark. He’s the 42nd Tiger to reach the milestone.

After a technical foul on its head coach Mark Turgeon, Maryland used two Cowan threes to go on 8-0 to cut LSU’s advantage to 46-39 with 14:28 to play.

Though Days answered with a corner three, Maryland carried the run to 13-3 to get within five, 49-44, with 11:16 left.

Using its zone, Maryland continued to chip away until tying the game at 5-5 with a layup by Smith with 6:34 to play. The Terps took a 57-55 lead on Smith’s free throws with 5:52 left.

The see-saw battle ensued for the next five minutes. With 40 seconds to play, Mays hit a contested three pointer from the left wing and Smith answered with a corner three of his own with 28 seconds left and the game tied at 67-67.

LSU called timeout with 21 seconds left and allowed the clock to wind under seven before Waters went to work for the final bucket.


March 23, 2019

Tony Benford
Tremont Waters
Skylar Mays
Naz Reid

Jacksonville, Florida

LSU – 69, Maryland – 67

THE MODERATOR: Coach, you’re heading to the Sweet 16.

TONY BENFORD: Yeah, I’ll tell you what, I’m really proud of my guys. Really came out and executed our game plan. I thought Coach Bill Armstrong who had the scout did a great job. But these guys took the game plan to the floor. We knew it was going to be a paint game. We wanted to attack the paint and protect the paint and the I thought we did that in the first half. We did a good job pushing it in transition, Tre did and Sky. We played inside-outside, but second half got a little stagnant, I give credit to Mark, he made a good adjustment there but my guys, these guys made big plays. Great players make great plays and they made plays and that’s why we’re moving on.

Q. Tremont, just describe the last play. Was it designed to do exactly the way it happened?
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, we wanted to pretty much hold the ball, take the last shot and not shoot the ball too quick so they wouldn’t have a chance to clear on the other end and put up a shot. So Coach Benford and the coaching staff and actually my teammates said they wanted me to take the shot, so we just held the ball out, Naz came and set a screen and I made a play.

Q. Tremont, can you just describe the feeling of being able to do that in that moment, and where exactly were you on the dog pile near the bench afterwards, and just what that feels like? You don’t see a whole lot of dog piles in basketball.
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, well, I was in the bottom of the dog pile, and just the feeling, it feels amazing. To have a great support system behind me and my teammates, my coaching staff, and all the fans that were here, to give me the confidence to go out and make a play like that is a very humbling feeling, and I’m going to continue to do everything I can to help this team win and just keep pushing for my guys.

Q. Tony, what went into the choice of having Tre being the guy on that last possession there?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it was a play that we run. We’ve run it a few times during the year. We knew against man and zone, especially against that three-two, we had to do a great job of screening that top guy, the three-two, and we told Naz, whoever is up there if they’re in the zone, just screen that guy and put a body on him, and Naz did a great job and Tre — and great players make great plays, and he made a great play.

Q. Naz, can you talk about your battle today with Fernando and Stix and what your relationship is with those guys off the court?
NAZ REID: Fernando, he’s huge. The game plan was really good. Try to get him off the glass. If I don’t get the rebound, at least one of my teammates will, and I mean, he’s one big guy. It was really, really hard. And Stix, he’s a tremendous player. We’ve played together, played against each other since seventh grade, so I’ve known him for a while. He played a great battle today, and I give props to both of them.

Q. With everything this team has been through, can you talk a little bit about what this means for you personally and for the team to get to a Sweet 16 after all this?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it’s huge for these guys. They’re the ones that paid the price. They’ve been through a lot. We know the story of adversity these guys have gone through, losing obviously Wade at the beginning of the year. We started and then obviously with Coach not being here with us. I give it to these guys. They have taken ownership of this team. It’s about these guys. These threes guys here and the rest of those guys, they trust each other and respect each other, they love each other, and when you have a team like that, you have a chance to win games, and that’s why we’re able to keep moving on.

Q. Coach Calipari was mentioning the reason why the SEC got so many teams in and was doing so well is because of the number of close games everybody seemed to be involved in. You guys had seven overtime games this year, you had this game. Is there any end of game situation or any second half situation at this point that you guys feel like you can’t handle?
SKYLAR MAYS: No, I won’t say so. We prepare for it. The coaches do a great job of putting us in adverse situations in practice with the six-minute games that we do and we’ll start the six minutes down seven, and usually when it applies to the game we’re not in that type of situation where it’s not as bad so we feel like we’re prepared for it and we can figure out a way to win, and we’ve been able to do that this year.

Q. Naz, all the highlights, when this tournament is over and they play the One Shining Moment, it’s probably going to show the move Tremont made to the basket to win the game. May not necessarily remember that Skylar made two free throws and knocked down a three, and he is the guy I hear is sort of the calming guy on this team. Can you talk about the five points he scored, the two free throws plus the three ball that kind of set the tone for what happened at the end?
NAZ REID: I mean, Sky makes plays like that per usual, so for us, it was like something we’ve seen every day. He’s very good at it, and just keeping calm is something he does — he keeps the coaching staff calm, the players calm. He’s a calm player who can get through adversity and do anything he can do at any moment by doing that.

Q. Coach Benford, the first half it seemed like you guys were totally in control offensively, all of your plays and sets were going through. In the second half they threw the zone at you. How difficult was that to keep your guys’ composure and take good shots down the stretch?
TONY BENFORD: Well, I thought we did execute. These guys did a great job of — like I said, Coach Bill Armstrong had the scout and he did a great job of preparing those guys with the scouting report and we wanted to attack the paint, like I said earlier, and we wanted to push them in transition. The problem with pushing in transition is that we had to get rebounds and those guys are pretty tough to keep off the glass. But we were able to do that, Tre was able to get a great push, and we were able to get some easy baskets in transition so we were able to extend the lead. But I give Mark — he made a great adjustment. We knew they were going to run the three-two and we had worked on it, but when you don’t have but a day to prepare, it’s tough. You’ve got to make shots. At the end of the day, I don’t care what zone, you got to make shots, but we made a couple adjustments and Skylar made some plays for us.

Q. Tony, when they called the tech on Mark and you get two foul shots, you go up 15 and I guess a team can go in two ways, but Maryland seemed to make that a turning point for them. Is it interesting how that can work?
TONY BENFORD: No, I’ve been doing this 28 years at this level. I’ve seen it work. They did a good job of — again, he changed his defense because they couldn’t guard us in man. My guys were really executing. But I thought when they made the change, we got stagnant, didn’t make shots, and they made shots and did a good job. So I give Maryland credit.

Q. When they went to that zone, you had a pretty good stretch there where you guys were just settling for deep balls there and there were a couple of time-outs in that stretch. Are you trying to hammer home in that —
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, good question, because the thing I told our guys, even man or zone, because we knew we talked about it before the game, that they run — I don’t care if it’s man or zone or three-two, we’ve still want to attack the paint. And I thought we got away from it. Our movement wasn’t very good. We called a couple plays out of the time-out and scored, but then I thought sometimes we settled too much. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to make shots, and we made the big one at the end.

Q. I think you only had six in the second half, but overall you outscored them 26-13 off the bench. Talk about the advantage that your bench gave you today?
TONY BENFORD: Well, we have eight starters. 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. Bring Emmitt Williams off the — he can start for anybody in the country. Darius Days, he can start for anybody in the country, Javonte Smart — so we got eight starters and all those guys can make plays.

I knew Darius would play well. He didn’t play — we didn’t play him — it was our fault we didn’t play him as much. We should have played him more and I told him to be ready and being here in Florida, he did a great job here in front of his family.

Q. Can you just talk about the personalities on this team? Obviously two big closers you saw there down the stretch with Skylar before that and Tremont now?
TONY BENFORD: I tell you what, I think Skylar Mays is one of the most underrated players in the country. We know what he does in the classroom, 4.0 student, scholar-athlete, but anyway, he’s a heck of a player, too. I think because he’s so smart, people forget how good of a basketball player he is. But he made some huge plays, and to do that — Wayde Sims was like a brother to him. Those guys grew up, and he’s — I know Wade is watching over us. But then Tremont is just a player. I mean, he’s a guy that makes plays, and I don’t know how he got through that shot with all those big guys in there, and he made it, but the basketball gods were watches over us today.

Q. 5 and 2 in overtime games and two of the victories were against tournament teams, one of the losses, you split with Florida, which is a tournament team, and FSU, who’s a tournament team. What makes these kids tough at the end of the game?
TONY BENFORD: That’s a great question. We went 5-1 in the league and we played six overtimes in the SEC, the best league in the country in my opinion. I think what it is, it’s the closeness of this group. They’re not afraid of the moment. We sit there in the huddle, we do a three-minute game, we weren’t playing as well as we needed to, and Skylar just said, Coach, Coach, we’re going to be okay, we’re going to win this game.

And so I just think that these guys — we got multiple guys that can make plays off the bounce, then you’ve got Naz that can score inside, so when you’ve got guys that can make plays and believe they can go make a play any time regardless of the situation, it makes the job easier as a coach and you have a chance to win close games.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


March 23, 2019

Mark Turgeon
Darryl Morsell
Anthony Cowan Jr.

Jacksonville, Florida

LSU – 69, Maryland – 67

MARK TURGEON: First of all, give LSU credit. They made two big-time plays. The three they hit and then the layup. We weren’t very good for 25 minutes. Shot selection, defensively. We just weren’t very good. I think we got down 16. And we switched to zone, and we got some confidence, took their confidence, and then we were better offensively. Not great, but we were better.

It’s a crazy game. You know, I’m really proud of my group. We didn’t quit, and we never quit all year. We’ve played hard. We played a really good basketball team. It was hard to score against them. But basketball is crazy.

So we run great offense, score tied, we get a wide open three for Eric Ayala, just missed it. They come down, and the guy just shoots a three and makes it, early in the shot clock. It’s basketball.

So that’s the way it worked. That said, Stix stepped up and Anthony made a great play, executed a great play after a time-out and made a three and ended up winning. But proud of my guys. We were gutting it out. We weren’t really deep today. Couldn’t really sub. Guys gave everything they had. I just feel bad for my team because people are so critical of me and my team, and we’re the fourth youngest team in the country and we battled. We gave it everything we had. They deserve better. They deserved better today. That’s why I’m disappointed.

Q. Mark, did you come out of the halftime in the zone, or was it later than that?
MARK TURGEON: After my technical, so you can look it up.

Q. That’s when — do you think the turnaround was more due to the zone or did they kind of see that technical and respond to that situation and use it to their advantage to get a little bit more motivated after that?
MARK TURGEON: I think both, because we scored and hit a three, and then we got a steal and a layup. So it was a little bit of both, to be honest with you. But I think our zone slowed them down, kept the little guy out of the paint a lot until the end, and then I thought Bruno and Stix did a phenomenal job protecting the rim. We just didn’t rebound well enough a few times. We gave them too many shots. But we rebounded better, and they’re a heck of a rebounding team, and I think we out-rebounded them by eight. But the zone definitely helped us.

Q. In that last time-out, do you feel like Tremont was going to take it there? Jalen obviously took it very hard. How do you prop him up after that?
MARK TURGEON: Oh, Jalen was terrific. What a great game he had. What a great year he’s had. No, we showed them exactly what was going to happen. We showed them middle ball screen for him. Kid just made a heck of a play. I wish we would have — wouldn’t have got around Jalen, and I wish if he did get around Jalen, Bruno would have pinned it on the glass, but it didn’t happen that way. And they scored. But the players knew exactly what was coming. We all knew what was coming, it was whether we were going to be able to stop it or not.

Q. Anthony and Darryl, what do you think you can take away from this run? You’re such a young team. What do you think you bring from this into next year?
DARRYL MORSELL: This is my first year here as a sophomore, so it was just a great experience to see, a great experience to be a part of. As a kid, I always grew up watching these type of games, these big-time games, so just to be able to be in it, it’s a great feeling, and just to have all these young guys coming back and stuff, it’s just going to make us hungrier.

Q. Coach, two, three times this year or maybe a little bit more, you went to the zone and it seemed to be really working. I know you’re a man-to-man guy. Is your mind maybe changing a little bit?
MARK TURGEON: No, it’s all stat driven. They shoot 31 percent from three as a team. That’s low. So everything told us to guard that way. We weren’t going to guard Belmont that way, obviously. And so we told the guys yesterday morning when they woke up, we’re going to zone, don’t know when, but we’re going to zone. I would have loved to have done it earlier. I just kind of felt like we weren’t putting any pressure — our offense just wasn’t good enough. But no, they knew we were going to do it. Guys like it. It helped us, but it’s got to be the right situation.

Q. What was the message as you were falling behind and just could not get over the hump?
MARK TURGEON: What was my message?

Q. Yeah, was there —
MARK TURGEON: It was just like, come on, guys, we’ve got to play better. I was on them. Shot selection wasn’t great at times. We were really searching in the first half. We went small right before half. Wiggins made some shots to keep it halfway decent. But I think once we cut it to five real quickly, we all thought we were going to win the game. We went up three. We all thought we were going to win the game. I never thought we were going to lose until the kid made the lay-up, to be honest with you.

I can’t fault anything that we tried to do. Offensively we tried to go through Bruno, tried to go through Anthony, tried to go through Stix. We threw a lot at them. One thing I would like to change is maybe our free-throw shooting. We missed seven free throws. Front end a one-and-one, I believe, too, so that would have helped us. They were 14 for 16. If we would have shot 21 for 23 we would have won the game, but we didn’t; we were 16 for 23.

Q. How to do in the moments after a loss, but if you can step back and think about where the program is in March of 2019 as opposed to the fall, how do you feel about it?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, I feel great. You know, the hardest part about today is I love coaching these guys. You know, we started at the summer, we went on a trip and we stuck together, and it was a grind. Our schedule was ridiculous, okay. We had eight of 11 on the road. It was a grind. And these guys, they kept trying for me, and we really pushed for this weekend. We really felt like — I really pushed them for this weekend. I knew we were going to play good basketball this weekend because I pushed them in practice towards this weekend.

I just feel bad for them because they go through a lot, and they deserve better. I don’t know how many shots rolled all the way in and rolled — I mean, come on.

I never think my program is in bad shape. That’s just my opinion. I always think we’re in good shape. I always think we’re going to win the next game, I’m going to get the next player. We’ve done some pretty good things. We’d like to do better, but I think we’re in great shape.

Seven of our top eight were freshmen and sophomores, and we’ve recruited pretty well, some things will happen in the spring I’m sure that will add some pieces. You know, and we’ll get even better. So I’m looking forward to coaching this group again next year.

Q. Mark, you said that LSU was the most athletic team in the country. Did you feel like your guys needed a little bit of time to adjust to that early in the game?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, it looked that way, especially around the rim. You know, and they had a good game plan against Bruno, and we only made them pay one time. Anthony hit the shot in the corner and I was begging our guys to do it for a long time. But I did think we got used to it. We got two pretty good athletes, too, in there. And we were able to get their guys in foul trouble throughout the game. We just didn’t make enough jump shots. We had some open looks and some open free throws and Bruno had some lay-ups go out. Darryl had a three-point play I think that rolled out or somebody’s lay-up went all the way in and went out. It was one of those days, and maybe we could have separated ourselves a little bit more, five or six, but yeah, they’re big-time athletes, crazy athletes, and the point guard is terrific.

Q. Did you kind of have a feeling in your mind going into the last play that waters was going to be the guy that was going to try to do something, more likely penetration because you also got the chance of drawing a foul?
MARK TURGEON: Do I have to answer it again or can he look it up? I’ve answered it so somebody has got it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports