The Maryland Terrapins women's basketball team made their first-ever trip to the Breslin Events Center in East Lansing to face the Michigan State Spartans. Maryland entered the game on a 16-game winning streak and 13-0 in Big Ten play. They left the arena 14-0 after securing a 75-69 win over the undermanned Spartans.
First Half - Who will bring the effort
Early on, Lexie Brown carried the bulk of the scoring for Maryland. She opened the game with a three-point jumper and tallied seven of the Terrapins' first 11 points. But Michigan State stayed close by crashing the boards and picking up seven offensive rebounds in the game's opening eight minutes.
Coming out of the under 12 minute media timeout, Anna Morrisey hit a three-point jumper that put MSU ahead for the first time in the game, 13-11. The Terps answered with a barrage of long-distance jumpers. Senior Laurin Mincy made a pair on back-to-back possessions and freshman Kristin Confroy dropped in the third as the trailer on a fast break.
The seven-point lead disappeared quickly, however, as the pink-clad Spartans scored on a traditional three-point play by Tori Jankowska and five straight points by Becca Mills to retake the lead. The Terps were complicit in the Spartans' run going cold from the field and from the free throw line while committing three turnovers on four possessions.
Maryland briefly recaptured the lead on a short jumper by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, but gave it back when they failed to rebound a missed free throw. The Terps took a 26-23 lead into the final media timeout of the half after Tierney Pfirman scored on a put back and Brionna Jones found space after taking a deed from A'Lexus Harrison.
The Spartans picked up a free throw from double-double machine Aerial Powers to close to within two, but Brown hit her second three pointer of the half and Walker-Kimbrough added in a mid-range jumper. Maryland's run extended to 11-1 and their lead to nine after another offensive rebound by Pfirman led to Brown banking in a short jumper. Powers scored the final basket of the half and the Terps led 33-26 at the break.
Maryland was unable to generate fast break points as they had in the first meeting between the schools, but began to assert control of the game concurrent with asserting control on the boards. At halftime, the Terrapins held a 24-19 rebounding edge. On the liabilities side of the balance sheet, their 10 first half turnovers allowed the Spartans to remain close.
Second half - Too much Pfirman and too much Jones
The Terps saw their lead dwindle to one in the first two and a half minutes as the Spartans attacked the basket on each of their first four possessions leading to a pair of layups and a wide open three, abetted by Maryland's 11th and 12th turnovers.
Despite getting an early three pointer from Mincy, Maryland, as they have often done throughout the season, seemed focused on getting the ball to Jones in the low post. The sophomore responded with two baskets. Though they had a three-point lead at the first media timeout, MSU knotted the score at 42 on a three pointer from the corner and, after three straight misses, the Spartans took a 44-42 lead on a layup by Mills.
Walker-Kimbrough evened the score on a jumper from the right wing as the shot clock expired and the Terps got their nose back in front when Jones made one of two from the line. With 11:52 to play, the score stood Maryland 45 - Michigan State 44, but the Spartans would have possession coming out of the break.
After Powers scored on an an isolation in the lane, the Terps got back-to-back jumpers from Pfirman to go ahead by three, but walk-on Cara Miller hit her second three pointer of the game to tie the score. Walker-Kimbrough was called for a flagrant one foul after being fouled herself. Jankoska made one of two free throws, but the Spartans didn't score on the ensuing possession.
Two free throws by Pfirman, a jumper by Brown and a layup by Jones on Maryland's next three possessions turned a 50-49 deficit into a 55-50 lead. Jones followed her basket with a block on a Powers drive that led to a fast break basket by Walker-Kimbrough, a seven-point Maryland lead and a timeout by Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant.
The Terps' lead reached double digits for the first time when Brown picked up her seventh assist of the night, running a picture-perfect pick and roll with Pfirman who scored her 10th point of the night. The teams traded baskets and Maryland led 65-54 as the clocked ticked under four minutes.
Still, the Spartans wouldn't go away. A three point jumper by Powers and Lexie Brown's first two turnovers of the game coupled with a missed free throw by Jones let MSU creep to within 68-61 with under a minute to play. Walker-Kimbrough picked up her fifth foul on the in-bounds play and gave the ball back to Michigan State on Maryland's 18th turnover.
After a long review, the officials again deemed the foul to be flagrant - a situation that gave Michigan State the ball and possession. The Spartans missed both free throws dropping them to 5-of-16 from the line. Maryland got a stop and Jones made both free throws, as did Mincy on the Terps' next possession. However, those four free throws sandwiched back-to-back three pointers by Michigan State.
Pfirman missed both free throws but Jones got the rebound and Mincy made a layup. One last free throw by Pfirman closed out the scoring and Maryland had a testy 75-69 win.
Brionna Jones finished with a double-double grabbing 11 rebounds to go with her 17 points. The Terps had five players in double figures. Walker-Kimbrough and Mincy each had 15, while Brown had 14 and Pfirman added 11. Although they were better than the Spartans, neither team distinguished themselves on the free throw line, where Maryland shot 17-of-25. The Spartans were 7-of-18 from the charity stripe.
Maryland stays on the road to face Wisconsin Thursday night.