There was a different feel to the Xfinity Center on Sunday afternoon. No. 6 Michigan State was in town. Scott Van Pelt was court-side. Greivis Vásquez was sitting next to him. There was a flash mob.
It didn’t matter, though, as Michigan State utilized a second-half run to pull ahead and quiet the crowd. With momentum on their side, the Spartans went on to win 74-68.
Joshua Langford led the way with 19 points in 28 minutes. Cassius Winston added 13, while Jaren Jackson added 12 of his own. Meanwhile, Anthony Cowan was the straw that stirred the drink for the Terps, scoring 12 points and dishing out nine assists. Kevin Huerter led the team with 17 points.
Maryland started the game on an electrifying 8-0 run. Dion Wiley hit a three, Cowan threw a long lob to Darryl Morsell who threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk, Wiley hit another three. The building exploded. Michigan State called a timeout.
The game evened out a little more from there, but this was exactly the atmosphere the Terps needed to help propel them to a top-10 upset.
Maryland led 22-16 at the first-half under-8 media timeout. Then the flash mob happened and the Xfinity Center crowd grew even louder, as it did with every basket of the ensuing 15-6 run. The Terps took a 37-24 lead into halftime as Huerter led the team with nine points. Cowan had already racked up six assists and six points. Cekovsky, Wiley and Nickens also had six.
Even with such a dominant first half, it still felt as if Michigan State wasn’t totally out of the game. The Spartans opened the second half on a 20-4 run, taking a three-point lead in just over five minutes. It was eerily similar to the last time these teams played, when the game was neck-and-neck for 15 minutes before the Spartans started making what felt like every shot.
But Maryland fought back, trading buckets with Michigan State for several minutes. Jared Nickens stepped into a mid-range jumper with 11:23 left, made it and was fouled by Jackson. It was his fourth personal foul. As fate would have it, Cekovsky picked up his fourth almost immediately. Bruno Fernando picked up his fourth on a ticky-tack call while hedging a screen with just over eight minutes left. Both teams were in the bonus before the under-8 timeout.
An untimely two-plus minute scoring drought while the Spartans hit 5-of-7 from the field spelled trouble for the Terps, who then trailed by eight with just over five to play.
A Huerter three-pointer pulled Maryland within four, and a shot-clock violation on the other end sent the crowd into another frenzy. A Nickens layup to cut the lead to two almost blew the roof off.
Maryland will be back in action Wednesday in West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on No. 3 Purdue at 8:30 p.m. on BTN.
Three things to know
1. The Xfinity Center was rocking. A conference matchup against the No. 6 team in the country combined with this being the Flash Mob Game pretty much guaranteed a raucous crowd. Maryland starting on an 8-0 run and leading 37-24 at halftime only amplified that. But the Terps never went on such a run in the second half.
2. Another Michigan State shooting barrage was the difference. Though Maryland briefly reclaimed the lead after the Spartans’ big second-half run, the crowd’s energy was neutralized and the momentum lied with Michigan State. Although the game was close the rest of the way, the Spartans didn’t budge.
3. Talent overcame energy. Maryland was jacked up Sunday. The crowd was energized. In the end, though, an uber-talented Michigan State was better than an injury-riddled, in-foul-trouble Terps squad.