Were it not for an injury, Korie Lucious may never have had the chance to make the shot.
Just six seconds after ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vazquez gave Maryland a one-point lead, Michigan State's Lucious caught a pass from Draymond Green, pump-faked a defender and then let the ball fly from the top of the key.
Lucious' shot fell as time expired, sending Michigan State into the Sweet 16 with an 85-83 victory Sunday afternoon at Spokane Arena.
"It felt good when it left my hand," said Lucious, who replaced junior Kalin Lucas late in the first half and finished with 13 points. "I didn't necessarily know it was going to go in, but it did."
Lucas, the Spartans' point guard and playmaker, went down with what is initially believed to be a torn Achilles' tendon. He was dressed in sweats on the bench in the second half and watched his replacement deliver the game-winner.
Asked to man up, Lucious did just that -- pressure or no pressure.
"Korie had the weight of the world on his shoulders because everybody was coming at him," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Izzo turned to his players late in the game, with the Spartans holding a dwindling lead, and said: "We're going to win this game, and it's going to be one of the greatest wins in Michigan State history."
"That may have been an exaggeration," he said afterward, "but if you knew what we went through today."
That the game came down to the final seconds was a surprise, considering Michigan State led most of the way. But with six seconds to go, it looked as if Maryland would walk away the winner, when Vasquez knocked down a runner to give the Terrapins an 83-82 lead.
Vasquez, who surpassed Len Bias and moved into second place on the Terps' all-time scoring list, led a relentless comeback over the final five minutes to try to extend his season. He scored 10 of the Terrapins' final 12 points to erase a 12-point deficit with less than five minutes to play.
But it wasn't enough.
"We just didn't want to give up," a somber Vasquez said while standing alone at the front of the locker room.
After Michigan State held the lead for nearly the entire game, the lead switched hands four times in the final 38 seconds.
"That's March Madness," Vasquez said.
After squeaking out a narrow three-point thriller over New Mexico State in the first round on Friday, the Spartans once again watched a double-digit, second-half lead dissipate.
"If you put us back in this situation three weeks ago, we wouldn't have won this game," Green said. "It's a matter of becoming closer teammates and better teammates to each other. With us doing that, you can pull games out like this."
Now, as the only team from last year's Final Four remaining in this season's tournament, the Spartans will play in their ninth Sweet 16 of the Izzo era next weekend. Michigan State will play ninth-seeded Northern Iowa, which beat top overall seed Kansas on Saturday, in a Midwest Regional semifinal next Friday in St. Louis.
Besides Lucas' injury, Michigan State played through Durrell Summers' foul trouble and Raymar Morgan's loose tooth (hit by an elbow) with four minutes to go.
"Everybody just rallied together," Summers said.
Known for the blue-collar effort and the grit that helped it to the championship game in Detroit last year, Michigan State didn't play pretty ball in the second half on Sunday. The Spartans turned the ball over 10 times in the final 20 minutes, but, despite playing without Lucas, they were able to break Maryland's press often enough.
And, in the final seconds, Lucious was able to slow down, turn, set and finish the game.
"My mom always tells me everything does happen for a reason," Lucious said. "I didn't really think about if (Lucas) was playing, I might not have been in there. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to make the shot."