In a losing effort on Saturday, Maryland made one of the best offensive teams in the country struggle in a low-scoring affair and contained maybe the country's best player in the semifinal of a conference tournament in March. That alone deserves its own praise, despite it ending in a three-point loss.
The Michigan State Spartans shot 42 percent from the field, down more than 6 percent from what they averaged during conerence play. They also turned the ball over 13 times. It was the first time since they beat Maryland a year ago that Michigan State beat a Big Ten opponent by less than 8 points.
"I think it's best game we played defensively all year," said Damonte Dodd. "I mean, man, I'm lost for words how well Rasheed [Sulaimon] and all of us defended Valentine and Costello and Forbes. The awareness on the court was tremendous, but we came up short."
Sulaimon had Valentine's number for almost the entire night, allowing him to score just 6 points in the first half on one made field goal and two of the four free throws which came off a technical foul unrelated to him.
For the game Valentine finished with his usual 18 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds, but got there with his third-lowest shooting percentage of the season at 4-for-12 (33.3 percent). He also had 4 turnovers, something he's on just six other occasions this season.
"Team defense," said Sulaimon. "I can't take all the credit at all. I just tried to keep him in front of me to make it tough."
"Without guys like Robert Carter or Damonte Dodd or Diamond Stone showing hard on screens and helping me get square back to him instead of going downhill and being at a disadvantage, that really helped me." said Sulaimon. "And once I got him back in front I just tried to make him work for everything."
It wasn't just the defensive effort against Valentine, the Terrapins also shut down two guys who gave them problems during their first meeting this season.
"We went by the gameplay and our focus was on Costello, Forbes and Valentine and we did a pretty good job on that," said Dodd.
After scoring 25 points in his try against Maryland, Forbes scored just 4 on 2-of-6 shooting and Costello had 10 points on 2-of-5 shooting.
As a team the Terrapins shot just 33 percent, and needed this leap in defensive cohesiveness to stay close in the final seconds. If they can put together the offensive display they showed against Nebraska with what they did on the other end against Michigan State, Maryland will be one tough out in the tournament.
"I definitely think we played to our potential tonight defensively," said Sulaimon, "and going forward it has to be like that every night to give ourselves a chance to win."
Maryland will learn its NCAA Tournament draw on Sunday.