Maryland men's basketball got off to a slow start and couldn’t bounce back, falling to Michigan State 77-67 on the road on Sunday in East Lansing, Michigan.
The loss pushed the Terps to below the .500 mark for the 2021-22 season. Maryland officially finished the regular season with a 15-16 record along with a 7-13 record in the Big Ten. Maryland will now look to the Big Ten tournament next week.
Here are three takeaways from the Terps’ loss to the Spartans.
Maryland’s dismal first half was enough to stop it from exacting revenge.
The first time these two teams met this season on the first day of February, then-No. 13 Michigan State narrowly escaped a loss in College Park. The Terps put up a battle on their home court but eventually lost 65-63 on a late bucket from Malik Hall with 1.9 seconds left to spoil the home side’s upset bid.
Having won four of its last five games and surely pondering its two-point home loss to the Spartans earlier in the season, Maryland should’ve come into this game with energy and momentum on the road.
Yet, the first half proved to be a surprising one for a Maryland team that had just started to find its footing.
Senior forward Marcus Bingham Jr. provided the Spartans an immediate spark with a two-handed slam on an alley top and then they were off and running behind an energized crowd at the Breslin Center.
A stale offense combined with unconfident shooting from the Terps saw Michigan State jump out to a quick 11-0 lead, while all five Maryland starters missed at least one shot. Missed shot after a missed shot, the Spartans’ first-half margin grew. Its suffocating defense repelled whatever the visitors tried to accomplish and it resulted in poor possessions that seemed to repeat for Maryland.
Junior guard Hakim Hart’s free throw make concluded the Terps’ drought, making the score 14-1 at the 14:56 mark. The Spartans were a red-hot 7-for-11 from the field to start, while Maryland’s misses piled up to an eventual 0-for-14 as a team.
Hart then scored Maryland’s first field goal at around the 11-minute mark, though Michigan State already ballooned its lead to 15, a daunting deficit for the Terps who entered Sunday's game with just three wins in nine road matchups.
“Can’t start the game out 18-1 in an opposing team’s building,” Russell said. “Luckily, we don’t have to go to anyone else’s building coming up, but you know anytime you go to one of these program’s buildings and go down 18-1 it’s going to be tough to fight back in.”
The Spartans’ lead stretched to 17 and it looked just as bad as it seemed with the Terps going into the break down 46-24. Maryland had no answer on the defensive end for Michigan State as the hosts went 53% from the field compared to the Terps’ 28% shooting percentage. Maryland also connected on just one three in 15 tries in the first half.
“We have to make sure we don’t put ourselves in that situation moving forward, which is too big of a hole to to overcome,” interim head coach Danny Manning said.
The Terps unsurprisingly couldn't come all the way back after their atrocious first 20 minutes. They weren’t able to officially get revenge on Michigan State as the Spartans swept the regular season series between these two programs.
The Terps’ starting five had a forgettable effort.
It’s a known fact that Maryland needs consistent scoring to take down some of the teams located in the upper half of the Big Ten.
It didn’t receive any consistency whatsoever in the loss to Michigan State.
Outside of a 10-0 run to begin the second half to shrink their deficit to 46-36, the Terps found that points were very hard to come by. Maryland’s 26 points at the half came off 9-for-32 shooting, with guard Fatts Russell leading the way with nine points. Maryland finished with its lowest point total in the last three games it has played when all was said and done.
Guard Eric Ayala came alive in the second half, but it wasn't enough to carry Maryland to a win. After combining for 38 points in his last two games, the senior went 1-for-7 in the first half, then 6-for-11 in the second half for a total of 19 points in 37 minutes on the floor. He added six rebounds. His second-half effort, in which he scored 17 points on a few eye-opening attempts, was too little too late.
“That’s who Eric Ayala is, you know he makes tough shots, he takes and makes tough shots,” Russell said about Ayala’s second-half performance. “I’m just happy that he got in a rhythm a little bit.”
Elsewhere in Maryland’s backcourt there were more inefficiency issues. Russell shot 36% for 16 points, while Hart added seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Junior forward Donta Scott and junior center Qudus Wahab rounded out the starting five with 13 and six points, respectively.
Overall, Maryland’s starting five went a combined 21-for-56 (37.5%) in the team’s 16th loss of the season. It will need a better and more consistent effort out of its starters in the Big Ten tournament if any run is to be made in the future.
Maryland’s path in the Big Ten tournament has officially been revealed.
Prior to Maryland’s game with the Michigan State, Manning and the rest of the Terps received some positive news ahead of the Big Ten tournament, which has its opening round starting Wednesday.
Penn State, a program that was in a solid spot heading into late February regarding playing itself out of the first round of the conference tournament, dropped three straight games to close out the regular season. The most important loss came against Rutgers on Sunday, automatically gifting Maryland the 10th seed in the Big Ten standings due to tiebreakers in its favor. Both teams finished with seven conference wins.
Maryland successfully made a late-season push, closing out the regular season with four wins in its final six games.
That No. 10 spot will be more than valuable to a streaky Maryland team. It guarantees it a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament, and the only real thing that was at stake for the Terps in their matchup with the Spartans was who they will be playing in the second round of the conference tournament.
Michigan found a way to oust No. 23 Ohio State on Sunday, sending a ripple effect that changed the Terps’ postseason scenarios. For Maryland, the defeat against Michigan State now means that it will face the Spartans, again, in the second round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday. If it lost to the Spartans, then it would’ve taken on Michigan.
Maryland is now 0-2 against the Spartans this season, but Michigan State is likely a more favorable matchup for the Terps on paper than Michigan. With Hunter Dickinson in the Wolverines’ arsenal, even though he missed Michigan’s impressive road win over Ohio State, that would spell trouble for Maryland. Remember that Michigan easily handled Maryland on Jan. 18, cruising to a 19-point win. Dickinson had 21 points in that matchup.
The Terps will have a chance to win their first game against Michigan State this season in hopes of moving along in the Big Ten tournament. They have shown that they can compete with the Spartans as seen by their two-point loss in February. It certainly won’t be easy, but if March can prove anything on a yearly basis, it’s that anything is possible.
First things first, Maryland will have to overcome Michigan State on Thursday if a miracle tournament run is to come.
“For us, we have to pull the good and have a short memory and get prepared to go on a run once we get to Indy,” Manning said.