SNIDER: One more win makes Maryland's season a success

Rick Snider
March 22, 2019 - 10:44 am

Maryland did just enough to win and only enough not to erase the doubts. The Terrapins keep dancing, but is the second round the final call?

No. 6 seed Maryland faces No. 3 seed LSU on Saturday after outlasting Belmont 79-77 on Thursday. The Terps are one game away from the Sweet 16, but one game removed from exiting right away. Maryland displayed stretches of brilliance like a 14-0 run to open the second half. And they floundered at times against a Belmont team that played well above its 11th seed ranking.

But in the end, Maryland played smartly and intercepted a backdoor pass in the waning seconds that would have sent the game into overtime. And, Terps coach Mark Turgeon actually made adjustments that worked in the second half.

Is Maryland really as good as its talent and capable of beating LSU, which surprised naysayers who figured the Tigers were sinking without their suspended coach? It’s virgin ground for both teams. The Terps won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2016 while LSU hadn’t done so since 2009.

Indeed, Tigers basketball hasn’t been a big deal for so long that a Google search of “LSU wins” first shows volleyball and baseball wins before a men's basketball win in the NCAA Tournament. That’s crazy.

The Terps frontcourt is good enough to reach the Elite Eight. Jalen Smith is the real key as teams double-team Bruno Fernando. Smith scored 19 points with 12 rebounds while Fernando added 14 points and 13 rebounds against the Bruins.

But the Terps really need Anthony Cowan to turn in a better performance than his 3-of-18 against Belmont, including 1-of-10 from behind the arc. If Cowan can score regularly, the inside-out game will beat LSU. Otherwise, it’s a slugfest.

Some of the pressure is off the Terps and Turgeon. They didn’t simply wilt under March pressure as they did in past years. But the chance to make the Sweet 16 with their regional at Capital One Arena offers an incredible opportunity to the Terps.

And they need at least one more win to make this season a success.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.