“They’re big-time athletes,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Crazy athletes, and the point guard is terrific.”
To slip past Maryland, L.S.U. overcame a miserable stretch in the second half, when the Terrapins’ 3-2 zone forced the Tigers into deep outside shots. Maryland erased a 15-point deficit, and the teams traded leads until the Terrapins tied the score one final time, on Jalen Smith’s 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds left.
Playing for the final shot, L.S.U. put the ball in the hands of Waters, who started moving toward the basket with about 6 seconds to go. He dribbled toward the 6-foot-10 Smith, hesitated, and then ducked around him before flipping an underhand shot off the glass.
When a desperation shot by Maryland bounced off the top of the backboard at the buzzer, the Tigers piled on Waters.
“I was in the bottom of the dog pile,” Waters said, “and just the feeling, it feels amazing.”
Morant’s feelings were not so gleeful. Still, he finished averaging 24.5 points and 10.3 points to become the first player in Division I to average at least 20 points and 10 assists in a season. He scored 18 points in the first half, but Florida State clamped down, blanketing the other four Racers to keep Morant from dishing to them. He had only four assists.
“To be honest with you, I’m still not sure that we stopped Morant,” Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said, “and I’m not sure anybody can.”
That task will likely now be up to N.B.A. coaches as Morant, who captivated the country with a magnificent triple-double performance in Murray State’s first-round win against Marquette, is expected to leave college and be a top pick in the draft.