It came down to the wire after Maryland men’s basketball fought back, but Michigan State ultimately captured the 65-63 win on Tuesday night in College Park.
With the loss, the Terps are now at an even 11-11 and 3-8 conference play. Time is running out for Maryland to string together a few wins and this defeat puts another major dent in the program’s postseason chances.
“Didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to win the game, but we can definitely pull a couple things from this game and use it to continue to build what we’re trying to do here,” interim head coach Danny Manning said.
Here are my three takeaways from the Terps’ loss.
Maryland was able to limit what Michigan State did offensively, but one scoring spurt from the Spartans was enough to hand it the loss.
The Terps came into Tuesday’s game giving up nearly 70 points per game. And while the Spartans have had a few solid offensive showings recently, they have also had a few letdowns on the scoreboard as well.
Michigan State scored at least 83 points in two of its last three games, both of which resulted in wins. The one loss head coach Tom Izzo’s squad has dropped in the previous three games was the 56-55 defeat to a shorthanded Illinois program. However, the Spartans added 86 points against a stingy Wisconsin defense, then 83 points against a team that’s starting to find its footing in Michigan.
But right away in the first meeting between Michigan State and Maryland, the Spartans seems to have shades of its offense that showed up in its one-point road loss to the Fighting Illini which came just a week ago.
Deflected passes were in abundance in Xfinity Center right from the opening tip, and that kind of game favored Maryland. The Spartans had issues finding some room in the paint and on the perimeter, and as a result, they started just 3-for-9 from the field, then eventually just 6-for-18 in the first half when the Terps held a 20-17 lead.
But, Michigan State quickly bursted open the doors.
With the score at 25-25, the Spartans used a combination of outside shooting and defensive effort to jump on the Terps in an instant. Michigan State went on a 7-0 run that swiftly turned into 10 straight points after a three from Joey Hauser.
The late first-half run boosted the Spartans’ shooting percentage to 41% and it hit 4-of-11 threes at the conclusion of the opening 20 minutes. The four-minute run erased Maryland’s solid defensive effort in the first half.
And even worse for Maryland, the deficit at the break was enough to do it in the rest of the way. After going down by that much, the Terps never regained the lead.
“I have to do a better job of making sure to close out the first half in a better standard for our team,” Manning said.
It turned out that the extended first-half run from the Spartans would be enough, but that shouldn’t diminish the Terps’ defensive effort. Michigan State was held to 30 points in the second half and even finished with a less efficient shooting percentage than Maryland.
Michigan State’s 65 total points marked the fourth straight game that the Terps have held an opponent to below the 70-point mark.
A few shooting slumps continued on the offensive side of the ball for Maryland.
Maryland hit an offensive rut against Indiana, that in itself was certainly not a secret.
The Terps tied their season-low in points with 55 and connected on only 16 field goals in 40 minutes of basketball. It was the second time this season that Maryland has scored 55 points, with the other time coming against Louisville back in Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship in which it lost by eight.
The big crowd present at Xfinity Center didn’t do any wonders for Maryland’s offense against Indiana. Maryland’s 29% field goal percentage against Indiana was less than ideal. Then you follow that up with hitting only 6-of-27 three-pointers, which equates to just over 22%, and you understand how Indiana claimed a 13-point road victory.
The Terps’ top scorers especially couldn't find their rhythm in that game, and that happened to be the case on Tuesday as well.
Junior forward Donta Scott, who scored only 10 combined points in his last two games along with 1-for-13 shooting, missed his opening three shots from the floor. His eight first-half shot attempts led the team, but he ended the first half with just six points. Scott added eight more points in the second half to round out his 14-point performance on a fairly inefficient 38% shooting.
Then there’s senior guard Eric Ayala, who continued his first-half struggles with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting. Ayala was cold in the loss to Indiana, hitting two field goals, including going just 20% from three-point range. He missed a few shots by a wide margin in the opening half and didn't help the Terps avoid an otherwise mediocre 25-point first-half. The senior finished with a team-high 15 points, but on a 4-for-15 clip from the field.
It wasn’t pretty for Ayala from deep either as he successfully knocked down one of his seven attempts from long range.
“I think I settled a lot for the three,” Ayala said after the game. “Early on I had success getting to the rim... and then on a couple of those threes I could’ve gone to the lane or found a teammate or something... got to mix it up a little bit more.”
Transfer point guard Fatts Russell was welcomed into the game abruptly with a hard blocking foul inside the paint 13 seconds in the game. Russell’s availability entering Tuesday was fairly up in the air due to a hand/wrist injury, but he ultimately started the game.
“I figured out this morning when we were at shoot-around... I just decided to give it a go,” Russell said on when he found out he’d be good to go for Tuesday’s game. “I just felt good out there, I fell on it one of those plays during the game but for the most part it felt good.”
He had only three points in the first half and ended with 10 in total.
All-in-all, it was another day of slumping offensively for a Maryland team that desperately needed at least one win in its two-game home-stand against Indiana and Michigan State.
Maryland shot just 24% from beyond the arc and 43% from the floor in the team’s second straight defeat. In comparison, the Terps came into the game averaging around 70 points per game and shooting nearly 32% from deep.
Maryland dropped two straight games in what was likely the most important stretch of its 2021-22 season.
Maryland had found some success in contests with ranked teams this season, rattling off two wins in three tries against programs. It had won games against then-No. 20 Florida and then-No. 17 Illinois, while the only game it dropped to a team located within the AP Top 25 was the matchup with then-No. 23 Wisconsin.
But when Maryland needed a win the most it has probably all season, it couldn’t get the job done on its home court in front of another energized crowd. The Terps had two prime chances to crawl out of the Big Ten’s basement with games against Indiana and Michigan State, both of which came at home.
It was an opportunity that made itself present after Maryland ripped off wins against Rutgers and Illinois, which marked the first time the Terps built together a two-game winning streak against Big Ten opponents this season.
But such momentum was short-lived.
Maryland’s loss to the Hoosiers differed in style from the loss to Michigan State, but the added number to the right side of the record column all counts the same for a team that sees its regular season game total dwindling.
Maryland still finds itself in the bottom-four in the Big Ten standings after the two consecutive losses with only nine games left before the Big Ten tournament seeds are set in place.
Upcoming for the Terps will be a tough road ahead that seems to only get tougher as the schedule pushes along. Two critical road matchups — one against Ohio State and the other against Big Ten Goliath Purdue — will be some of the Terps' last few chances to pull off a late-season miracle.
Just about every game from now on is a must-win for the Terps, whose postseason hopes continue to shrink with each defeat.