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Maryland men’s basketball vs. No. 10 Michigan State preview

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The Terps will take on their fourth top-25 opponent of the season.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland men’s basketball will have a chance to redeem its poor performance against Indiana when No. 10 Michigan State heads to College Park on Tuesday.

With an opportunity to make a statement coming off a two-game win streak and student attendance incredibly high, Maryland shot 29% from the field on Saturday in a loss to Indiana.

The Terps are 3-7 in the Big Ten and have another great team coming to the Xfinity Center on Tuesday night. The Terps will need to shake off the Indiana loss and play a complete game to knock off the Spartans.

Michigan State is coming off a 16-point win over a Michigan team that beat Maryland by 20 points.

The matchup will be at 7 p.m. and broadcast on ESPN2.

Michigan State 16-4 (7-2 Big Ten)

2021 record: 15-13 (9-11 Big Ten)

Longtime head coach Tom Izzo has a phenomenal squad this season after a down season last year. The Spartans expect to be in the conversation with the best teams in the conference, and country, and they certainly are this year.

The Hall of Fame coach is in his 27th year at Michigan State and has his team in second place in the Big Ten. Competing for conference championships is familiar territory for Izzo, who has 10 regular season Big Ten titles and six tournament titles. The Spartans have impressive wins over Wisconsin and Michigan but did fall to Illinois and Baylor earlier this season.

Players to know

Gabe Brown, senior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 44 — Michigan State has a balanced scoring attack that has served them well this season, but Brown is the engine on the team. He leads the team in scoring with 13.2 per game. As a forward, Brown can score on the inside, but also likes to step out and shoot the long ball. The senior is shooting 36.5% from three-point land this season and is a willing defender.

Malik Hall, junior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 25 — Hall is another forward the Spartans throw out there and is a force inside. He averages 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Hall can step out and knock down a three, but he prefers to operate in the post. Hall is just another big man that the Terps will have their hands full with.

Max Christie, freshman guard, 6-foot-6, No. 5 — The freshman has burst onto the scene in a big way for the Spartans this season. Christie is second on the team in scoring averaging 10.4 points per game. He has had some freshman growing pains this season, but he is capable of having big scoring nights, like the last game the Spartans played where he went for 16 in a win against Michigan

Strength

Size. As is common with Izzo’s teams, this Spartans squad has a ton of size and plays a physical brand of basketball. Michigan State’s four leading scorers are all 6-foot-6 or taller. The Spartans are notorious for controlling the glass and crashing for offensive rebounds. This year, they average the third-most rebounds per game in the conference with 39.7 per game.

Weakness

Turnovers. Michigan State has struggled to take care of the ball this season. The Spartans have committed more turnovers than any other team in the conference and have the second-worst turnover margin in the Big Ten with a -3.25 margin. If Maryland can speed Michigan State’s up and create some turnovers, they'll have a better chance of pulling off the upset.

Three things to watch

1. How will Eric Ayala respond? The senior guard has been Maryland’s most consistent offensive player and is the teams leading scorer, but on Saturday against Indiana, Ayala struggled to find his rhythm. After knocking down the first three of the game for Maryland, Ayala only scored three more points the rest of the game for a total of six on 2-12 shooting. It’s a rare occurrence Ayala is limited to single digits and no one should expect it to occur frequently. The only way Maryland will have a shot against the Spartans is if Ayala gets back to scoring at a high level.

2. How will Maryland fair against Michigan State’s size? Although Maryland does not have the biggest lineup and center Qudus Wahab has struggled against Big Ten competition, the Terps still attempt to control the paint. However, against Indiana, Maryland was outscored by 16 in paint points. Maryland was dominated inside while they continued to throw up an abundance of threes to no avail. The Terps need to get back to driving inside, but it will be difficult against Michigan State’s size.

3. Will Fatts Russell play? Maryland’s speedy point guard Fatts Russell injured his wrist in the second half against Indiana on Saturday. He did not return to the game but did sit on the bench with ice on his wrist. His status for Tuesday is uncertain. Not only is he the team's facilitator, but Russell has shot the ball better in recent games. Guard Ian Martinez has almost completely fallen out of Manning’s rotation because of his poor play after playing decent minutes earlier in the year. But if Russell can't play on Tuesday, Martinez could get extended minutes and have another opportunity to prove himself.