Maryland overcame a slow start and a final jerk from Kedrian Johnson at the buzzer, topping West Virginia 67-65 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Johnson led all scorers with 27 points, but his winning potential bounced off the side of the rim at the buzzer, allowing the Terrapins (22-12) to advance in March Madness.
Maryland, led by Julian Reese with 17 points and nine rebounds, will face first-seeded Alabama and No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. Those teams met in the second game of the day at Legacy Arena.
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The opening matchup between eighth-seeded Maryland and the No. 9 Mountaineers (19-15) lived up to the hype.
Maryland fell behind by 12 points in the first half before rallying to take a 32-30 lead at halftime. Neither team could break away in the last 20 minutes.
A trip call on Jahmir Young gave West Virginia a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer. But the Mountaineers couldn’t find anyone open beyond the arc, forcing Tre Mitchell to slot it under the basket.
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Young was fouled after the tackle, but made just one of two free throws. West Virginia put the ball in the hands of the guy they wanted, only for Johnson to come up short at the buzzer.
In a contest that began at 11:15 a.m. local time, Maryland sleepwalked for the first 10 minutes.
The Terrapins turned around on five of six possessions and went almost 8 minutes without scoring. West Virginia built a 16-4 lead that could have been even bigger if not for the Mountaineers’ poor shooting.
Finally, Maryland woke up.
The Terps stopped being so sloppy with the ball and scored 18 of the next 23 points, regaining the lead on Young’s 3-pointer with 6 minutes remaining in the first half.
Maryland led at halftime after making 9 of its last 13 shots, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, to go along with 7-of-7 perfection at the free throw line. More importantly, the Terps delivered it only twice during that span.
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West Virginia: Coach Bob Huggins came up short in his 26th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland: The Terps are moving on, but they can’t be so sloppy in their next NCAA game.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
In its last NCAA appearance two years ago, Maryland lost to Alabama in the second round.