BIRMINGHAM, Alabama | Maryland overcame a slow start and a final throw at the buzzer from Kedrian Johnson to best West Virginia 67-65 in the first round of Thursday’s NCAA tournament.
Johnson led all scorers by 27 points, but his potential winner bounced off the side of the rim when the horn sounded, allowing the Terrapins (22-12) to advance in March Madness.
Maryland, led by Julian Reese with 17 points and nine rebounds, meets the winner of top-seeded Alabama and No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. These teams met in the second game of the day at Legacy Arena.
The opening game between eighth-ranked Maryland and the No. 9 Mountaineers (19-15) lived up to the bill.
Maryland fell 12 points behind in the first half before taking a 32-30 lead at the break. In the last 20 minutes neither team could break away.
A traveling call to 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 put him under the basket.
Young was fouled after the inbounds but only made one of two free throws. West Virginia got the ball in the hands of the man it wanted, only for Johnson to miss the buzzer beater.
In a contest that began at 11:15 a.m. local time, Maryland sleepwalked for the first 10 minutes.
The Terrapins turned it over on five of six possessions and went almost 8 minutes without a goal. West Virginia built a 16-4 lead that could have been even bigger if the Mountaineers hadn’t shot badly.
Finally, Maryland woke up.
The Terps stopped being so sloppy with the ball and scored 18 of the next 23 points, retaking the lead on Young’s 3-pointer with 6 minutes remaining in the first half.
Maryland led at halftime after hitting nine of their last 13 shots, including 3 of 5 over the arc, to go along with a 7-of-7 perfection at the foul line. More importantly, the terps flipped it only twice in that span of time.
West Virginia: Coach Bob Huggins came up short on his 26th trip to the NCAA tournament.
Maryland: The Terps are going on, but they can’t be that sloppy in their next NCAA game.
In his last NCAA appearance two years ago, Maryland lost to Alabama in the second round.
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