SPOKANE, Wash. -- Before Maryland tipped off against South Dakota State, No. 13-seed Hawaii pulled out an upset win over No. 4-seed California on this same floor at Spokane Arena.
After leading by as many as 18 points in the middle of the second half, South Dakota State cut the margin to just two points 1:03 to play after three Jackrabbit free throws. Melo Trimble fouled out.
But somehow, despite mental errors down the stretch that included fouling two shooters on three-point attempts and allowing the lead to again dwindle to two with 12.1 seconds to play, Maryland was able to pull out a 79-74 victory on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Jake Layman led the way for Maryland with 27 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 5-of-8 shooting from three. He also hit all eight of his free throws to help seal it.
Maryland now advances to play Hawaii in the Round of 32 on Sunday. Here are five things you need to know
1) Melo Trimble locked in early
South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy admitted that, straight up, his team could not defend Maryland point guard Melo Trimble. They threw multiple looks at him early, hedging on ball screens to try to force the ball out of his hands but he fought through it.
By the under-eight timeout, he had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 shooting from the free-throw line. He had 15 points as part of a classic Trimble line -- 4-of-7 shooting from the floor and 7-of-7 shooting from the line.
2) Defense stout, but offense is the issue
By the under-four media timeout of the first half, Maryland had been holding South Dakota State to 28 percent shooting from the floor. It was really Maryland’s lack of offensive flow that was keeping them down in the first half.
Frustrated with an inability to get to the rim, South Dakota State took 17 threes in the first half and hit just four of them. Their most successful sets, which they got away from at one point, involved moving Maryland’s bigs in pick-and-rolls. Damonte Dodd had trouble defending out to the perimeter and there is nowhere to hide an immobile big against the Jackrabbits.
3) Important run to end first half
When the Jackrabbits had trimmed the game down to three points, 23-20, with 5:14 to play, Maryland ended the half on an 11-2 run to extend the lead to 12 by the break. Maryland used more of its soft press, which did well to fluster SDSU. They also got big threes from Jake Layman and Jared Nickens also catalyzed the run.
FiveThirtyEight.com had Maryland with a 96 percent chance to win the game at halftime.
4) Enduring the storm
By the midway point of the second half, Trimble, Robert Carter, and Diamond Stone all had three fouls and were forced to the bench. That is where Jared Nickens proved to be crucial. Nickens has had stretches where he struggled this season, but his big shot-making was back on Friday.
He hit threes at critical junctures in both the first and second halves, most notably with 16:05 to play to push an eight-point Maryland lead to double digits. He also contributed defensively.
As its final card to play, South Dakota State starting pressing Maryland as the game came toward the under-eight timeout.
5) Battle until the end
The pressure gave Maryland troubles early. South Dakota State baskets meant they could set up the press that gave the Terrapins issues with Melo Trimble on the bench in foul trouble.
There was some big-time shot making, too. Deondre Parks and George Marshall hit back-to-back threes to cut an 11-point Maryland lead down to just six with 2:54 to play. Maryland needed stops.
It was two with 1:03 to play without Trimble on the floor as a go-to free-throw shooter. That came on a three-point attempt. Maryland fouled again on a three-point attempt, this time Sulaimon. It was a two-point game with 12.1 seconds to play.
Jaylen Brantley hit one free throw before pressuring the ball and helping to force a turnover that led to a Sulaimon steal and dunk to seal it.