SPOKANE, Wash. -- Jaylen Brantley had attempted 10 free throws all season before he stepped to the line with 12.1 seconds to play and Maryland clinging to a two-point lead on Friday night against South Dakota State.
This is usually Melo Trimble’s job. He’s the 86.7 percent free-throw shooter and the sure ball-handler and the big-shot maker that Maryland has leaned on down the stretch of games the past two seasons.
But Trimble was on the bench after uncharacteristically fouling out and could only look on as the ball was inbounded to Brantley and South Dakota State fouled him.
Brantley missed the first, and badly, looking like a player who was overcome by the moment.
“I didn’t even realize I shot it that hard and then I was kind of disappointed in myself, but I just calmed myself down,” Brantley told CSN.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to shoot free throws to this magnitude that meant so much.”
There is very little time between free throws within a game, which must feel even faster on this stage and in this moment. A bad miss needed to be followed by at least one make to force South Dakota State into taking a three instead of being able to get to the basket for two.
Brantley had a singular focus in that moment.
“All I kept thinking of was my mom just yelling at the TV like, ‘Why won’t you make this free throw?’” he told CSN. “So I didn’t want to disappoint her so I knew I had to make the second one.
“I just tried to make the second one and thankfully it went it.”
Now up three, Brantley’s job was not over. The ball was inbounded to South Dakota State's Keaton Moffitt, who was harassed by the Terrapin coming up the floor. Moffitt picked up his dribble and Brantley moved in. In the bustle, Moffitt tried to drop off a close-range pass to fellow guard Deondre Parks.
The ball slipped through his hands to Maryland’s Rasheed Sulaimon, who narrowly eluded the diving Parks as he tried to commit a foul to extend the game and Sulaimon dunked to seal the victory.
Survive and advance.