It was a tale of two halves in the matchup between Maryland men’s basketball and Michigan State. Ahead of halftime, the Spartans held onto their largest lead of the game with a 22-point cushion.
However, in the second half, the Terps came out ready to play. All of a sudden, senior guard Eric Ayala was shooting hot from 3-point range, sinking five shots from behind the arc including two back-to-back with about 12 minutes to go which set up a 19-4 run for the Terps.
The run was highlighted by a few big steals from graduate guard Fatts Russell that turned into assists and a Russell drew a foul with seven minutes remaining and cut the lead to three with two successful free throws.
As much fight as the Terps displayed in the second half, Maryland fell short dropping its rematch with the Spartans, 77-67. However, the Terps will have a third chance to find a win against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament.
“We’ve been fighting all year,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “You know, that’s one thing that we’re proud of as a staff. These guys have continued to show grit and determination regardless of situations.”
Maryland finishes the 2021-22 season with a 15-16 overall record and a 7-13 conference record.
Michigan State raced out of the gates to an early 14-0 lead and Maryland could not find its footing in the opening minutes. While the Spartans were clicking, it took Maryland eight attempts from the field before the Terps were able to draw a foul and get on the board in the form of free-throw attempts from junior guard Hakim Hart.
Hart went 1-for-2 from the line and with less than 15 minutes remaining, Maryland was down 14-1 shooting 0% from the field and Michigan State was 5-for-8 from the field.
The Spartans continued to pile it on but with 11 minutes remaining, Hart finally broke through for Maryland from the field closing the deficit to 15 points. At that point, the junior guard was the only Terps on the board but a pair of successful free throws from Russell inched them a little closer.
After not being able to buy a basket, about halfway through the first half, Maryland made three consecutive attempts from the field. It was an opportunity for the Terps to try and crawl back as Michigan began struggling from the field hitting just one of their last eight attempts before a driving layup sparked things back up for the Spartans.
As much as Maryland tried to claw its way back, the Terps had dug themselves into too large of a hole and Michigan State didn’t let off the gas in the first half. Maryland was down 20 points before Russell hit the first 3-pointer for the Terps to chip away at that deficit.
At the end of the first half, Maryland was down 46-26 and had shot just 9-for-32 from the field including a mere 1-for-15 from behind the arc. Michigan State, on the other hand, was 17-for-32 from the field and 3-for-8 from behind the arc.
The narrative was different to start the second half with Maryland jumping out to a quick 10-0 run to bring the game within 10 points. Ayala strung together two 3-pointers while junior forward Donta Scott and junior center Qudus Wahab each found points inside the paint while the Terps put together a few strong defensive stops.
Three minutes into the second half, Michigan State was 0-for-5 from the field and it wasn’t until forward Joey Hauser hit a jumper that the Spartans found some points in the second half to spark a 10-0 run with back-to-back triples.
Maryland turned the ball over three times in four minutes and went scoreless in that stretch. Ayala snapped the drought with a 3-pointer, his third of the day and Maryland’s fourth. As Michigan State kept piling it on Ayala kept finding his way behind the arc picking up two more 3-pointers in the span of about a minute halfway through the second half.
Ayala was the spark Maryland so separately needed setting off a tremendous 19-4 run for the Terps.
The run was highlighted by Maryland forcing a couple of steals from Russell.
“He was really active,” Manning said about Russell’s defensive performance. “Had great anticipation, great timing, got his hands on some balls and got out in transition gave us a chance to do some things to cut into that lead.”
The first one, Russell forced guard Max Christie to turn the ball over. Russell dribbled the ball down the sideline, popped it up to graduate guard Xavier Green on the left side of the basket who sank the layup and brought the Terps within 10 points.
A few possessions later, Russell stole the ball away again from the Spartans, moved it downhill on a fast break, got it off to Hart for the alley-oop basket making it a 61-56 game.
However, as Maryland grew closer, just three points away from finding the tie, Michigan State started looking like the first-half team they were and slowly pulled away to close its regular season out with a win.
Three things to know
1. Ayala and Russell strung together strong second-half performances. The backcourt duo has proven to be some of Maryland’s most talented players and in the second half, stepped up when needed. Ayala scored 17 points in the second half including five 3-pointers and he also had three rebounds. Russell had seven points bringing his point total up to 16 and he finished the day with three steals and four assists. Scott also put in a strong performance with 13 points and five rebounds.
‘Happy that [Ayala] got in the rhythm a little bit,” Russell said about Ayala. “You know, we was riding for a minute and he kept us in it.”
2. The Spartans won the battle in the paint. In the first half, Michigan State outscored Maryland 20-10 in the paint. The Terps were 4-for-7 when it came to layups and hadn’t attempted any dunks. Michigan State was 5-for-8 on layups and had two successful dunk attempts. The Spartans also were winning the battle on the boards outrebounding the Terps 24-16 in the first 20 minutes of the game. After 40 minutes, Michigan State outrebounded Maryland 39-30 and grabbed 11 offensive boards. The Spartans finished with 32 points in paint while Maryland ended up scoring 26.
3. Maryland will face Michigan State as its first opponent in the Big Ten tournament. After Rutgers defended its home court against Penn State, Maryland men’s basketball was secured into the No. 10 spot in the Big Ten tournament standings. With that seed, comes a first-round bye. After the bye, the Terps will face Michigan State for the third time this season giving Maryland the opportunity to pick up a win against the Spartans before the 2021-22 season comes to a close.
“Michigan State’s always a tough team,” Russell said. “But, you know, we’re confident in our abilities to be confident that, you know, we’re gonna go in and we’re going to execute a game plan this time.”