In a battle for first place in the Big Ten, Maryland basketball came up well short against No. 6 Michigan State. The No. 13 Terps were outclassed by the Spartans, falling 69-55 Monday in East Lansing.
While both teams went on big runs early in the game, Michigan State’s 28-6 run that started at the end of the first half made the difference. Maryland tried to cut into the lead, but couldn’t put enough defensive stops together to get within single digits in the second half.
After what was arguably the Terps’ best offensive performance of the season against Ohio State, Maryland may have had its worst. The Terps shot just 34.4 percent from the field, and their 9-of-26 mark from three was buoyed by a 6-of-12 second half. Maryland even hit just four of seven free throws, which had been a huge strength during its seven-game win streak.
Aaron Wiggins led Maryland in scoring with 15 points on five three-pointers, scoring in double figures for the second straight game. Bruno Fernando added 12 points and 13 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season, and Darryl Morsell was the last Terp to finish in double figures with 10 points. Anthony Cowan Jr. couldn’t turn another slow start into a hot second half, finishing with just seven points on just 3-of-12 shooting. It’s his first time not reaching double digits this season.
For Michigan State, Cassius Winston continued to be the straw that stirs the Spartans’ drink. Although he finished 5-of-13 from the field, he scored a team-high 14 points and chipped in seven assists. Kenny Goins matched Winston’s 14 points and also chipped in 11 rebounds. Aaron Henry, Matt McQuaid and Xavier Tillman scored in double figures as well, finishing with 12, 10 and 10 respectively. Nick Ward never got into a rhythm, scoring no points and picking up four fouls in 14 minutes of action. The Spartans shot 46 percent from the field, and controlled the game in two key areas. They outscored Maryland 36-20 in the paint, and had 29 fast break points compared to the Terps’ nine.
The first half was a game of runs, with Michigan State jumping out to an early 18-6 lead. The Spartans didn’t get off to a great start from the field but Maryland was ice cold, hitting three of its first 18 shots and missing its first seven three-point attempts. The Spartans were hot from beyond the arc early, hitting four of their first seven three-point attempts. After hitting their first shot in over four minutes, the Terps answered back with a 14-2 run to tie the game at 20. The Spartans went cold during the run, not hitting a shot for over five minutes.
With Maryland working all the way back to tie the game, it was once again Michigan State’s turn to go on a run. The Spartans closed the half on an 11-0 run, holding the Terps without a field goal for the final 4:22 of the first half. The Spartans took advantage of Maryland suddenly becoming turnover-prone, scoring seven points off five Maryland turnovers in the last 4:10. With two long droughts, the Terps shot just 25.8 percent from the field in the first half.
The run continued in the second half. Maryland started the second half cold, and let it affect the defense on the other end of the floor. Michigan State extended the lead to 22 with 15:28 remaining before back-to-back threes from Wiggins trimmed the large deficit. The Terps cut the lead down to 11 with 5:42 to go, but would get no closer.
Maryland returns to action Saturday at Madison Square Garden for a “home” game against Illinois.
Three things to know
1. Maryland looked like a young team. What made the Terps’ seven-game win streak more impressive is that they’ve done it playing five freshman in their top eight. That showed against a veteran and battled tested Michigan State team, who looked poised throughout while Maryland looked unsure and not ready for the challenge.
2. The Terps lost the battle inside. Even though Fernando picked up another double-double, Michigan State controlled the paint all night. Jalen Smith had just six points, and struggled to even grab rebounds. The Spartans outscored Maryland 36-20 in the paint, getting easy layups in the basket while the Terps couldn’t get an easy look and had nine shots blocked.
3. Aaron Wiggins was a bright spot. In a night where not much went right, the freshman from North Carolina had his second straight strong showing. Wiggins has seen his minutes fall due to the emergence of Ricky Lindo and Serrel Smith, but should see more time going forward if his shot continues to fall.