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Like Varun Ram a year ago, Jaylen Brantley comes through for Maryland in NCAA first round

Maryland guards Rasheed Sulaimon (0) and Jaylen Brantley (1) celebrate during the closing seconds of the Terps' 79-74 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Wash.
Maryland guards Rasheed Sulaimon (0) and Jaylen Brantley (1) celebrate during the closing seconds of the Terps' 79-74 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Wash. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

SPOKANE, WASH. — After missing badly on the first of two free throws with 12 seconds left in Friday's first-round NCAA tournament game against South Dakota State, Maryland guard Jaylen Brantley wasn't thinking about his teammates or coaches or the team's fans in the stands at Spokane Arena.

Brantley, a sophomore reserve who transferred to Maryland last summer after a circuitous route that included stops in prep school, at Marshall and at a junior college in Texas over the past three years, was thinking about his best friend and biggest fan – his mother.

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"All I could think of was my mom yelling at the TV, going crazy, 'Why didn't you make the shot? Something like that," Brantley said later. "I was just trying to calm down. Thankfully the second shot did go in."

The free throw increased Maryland's lead to three points. Brantley -- who had played nine minutes because of fellow sophomore guard Melo Trimble's foul trouble and came in with 1:03 to go when Trimble fouled out -- then put pressure on South Dakota State backup point guard Keaton Moffitt, who had a pass stolen by Terps guard Rasheed Sulaimon.

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"I was just trying not to foul him, just trying to make sure he didn't take a good shot and I was going to contest the shot so it wouldn't have a chance of going in," Brantley said.

A dunk by Sulaimon sealed Maryland's 79-74 win to put the fifth-seeded Terps into Sunday's second round against 13th-seeded Hawaii.

Just as little-used Varun Ram had made a game-sealing defensive play in the closing seconds for the Terps in last year's narrow win over Valparaiso in their first NCAA tournament game in Columbus, Ohio, Brantley had done the same with the free throw and defensive pressure in the final minute after replacing Trimble.

Of the free throws he took, Brantley said, "That was the most pressure I've ever had in my life, the biggest free throws I've ever shot, not even close. It was a lot of pressure, but once I missed the first one, I just calmed myself down and made the second one."

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Said Sulaimon, "It meant a lot, especially for Jaylen. He works so hard and especially when Melo fouled out, I just told the guys, 'Next man up,' and that was Jaylen. I told him that I had 100-percent confidence in him. He went to the line and made a big free throw and also had a big defensive play for us."

Brantley said that Trimble had told him "be ready and just take care of the ball" after the team's star fouled out for first time in his 69-game college career. Because of his inconsistent playing time this season, Brantley wasn't sure he would be called.

"I didn't know if coach was going to put me in or another sub in. I was just trying to stay ready," Brantley said.

Senior forward Jake Layman, who led the Terps with a career-high-tying 27 points, said he knew he had one timeout left when he inbounded the ball. Initially, Layman planned to get Sulaimon the ball, but wound up throwing the pass to Brantley near the baseline.

"I was trying to get  it to Rasheed first, but he was covered," said Layman, who moved into second place on Maryland's all-time list for games played with 139, two behind Juan Dixon.   "I had faith in everybody to knock down free throws."

After one bad miss, Brantley showed the faith was well deserved.

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