On the same day Maryland men’s basketball shot up to No. 13 in the AP poll, Michigan State proved that there was still a divide between the Terps and the upper echelon of the conference. A 69-55 loss snapped a seven-game Maryland winning streak, as well as conference and road win streaks in the process.
Maryland (16-4, 7-2 Big Ten) suffered through another slow start before fighting back to tie the game at 20. From there, the Spartans punished the Terps before putting it on cruise control. There were few bright spots in the loss: Bruno Fernando picked up his 11th double-double of the season and Aaron Wiggins scored 15 points on a career-high five three pointers. Other than that, it was not a pretty game.
It’s time for the good, the bad and the ugly from Maryland’s second conference loss of the season.
The good: Aaron Wiggins
Wiggins is the only surprising positive of the game, ending up with his second straight game in double figures. Despite an onslaught from Michigan State, he was always calm behind the arc and went 5-of-9 from deep. He’s starting to heat up on offense, providing Maryland a hot-shooting sixth man.
Serrel Smith Jr. and Ricky Lindo’s recent emergence as fixtures have cut into Wiggins’ time a little, but he is starting to find his shots. He had looked like a sixth starter at the beginning of the season but cooled down a bit, going over a month without scoring in double figures. If he can provide a consistent spark off the bench, the Terps become a more dangerous team, especially from deep.
The bad: Anthony Cowan
Anthony Cowan Jr. had a string of cold starts to games recently, but also came into the game having scored over 20 points in four straight games. The Spartans shut him down, and he was never able to get going. He was held under double digits for the first time all season, finishing with just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Cowan is easily Maryland’s best scorer, and the Terps won’t be able to stay in a lot of big games if he isn’t clicking. Mark Turgeon is going to have to find ways to get his junior point guard high-efficiency looks earlier in games to get him going. Cowan’s also supremely confident in his game, so all signs point to this being an anomaly. Regardless, he can’t have many more of these outings if Maryland’s going to stay near the top of the conference leaderboard.
The ugly: Maryland’s transition defense
Maryland’s defense has been a surprising bright spot this season, but it was atrocious in transition against the Spartans. Michigan State turned 12 Maryland turnovers into 14 points, and outscored the Terps 29-9 in fast-break points. By comparison, the Terps turned nine Michigan State turnovers into a mere three points, which was no help to the comeback effort.
Michigan State picked the Terps apart on the break, helped by 21 assists on 28 made baskets. The Spartans pushed the pace, and the Terps were simply unable to keep up. Maryland’s deficiencies in transition also contributed to a 36-20 disadvantage in points in the paint, and that was with Nick Ward being held to just 14 minutes and no points with foul trouble.
Maryland has an opportunity to get back in the win column on Saturday, heading to Madison Square Garden for a “home” game that marks the Terps’ third straight contest away from the Xfinity Center.