Maryland basketball had an opportunity to seize first place in the Big Ten standings Monday night, but Michigan State was simply too much to handle, winning 69-55. The No. 6 Spartans turned a tie game into a 22-point lead in the late first and early second half, as the No. 13 Terps didn’t have any answers.
“Tonight’s the first night my team looked young,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game.
Maryland plays five freshmen and no seniors in its eight-man rotation (the ninth man, redshirt senior Ivan Bender, played just three minutes Monday). The headliner of the Terps’ rookie class, power forward Jalen Smith, encountered a front line that could overpower him; he finished with just six points and three rebounds. The Spartans also overwhelmed fellow freshman forward Ricky Lindo, who went scoreless with four rebounds. In all, the five rookies combined to shoot 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) from the field, and Maryland shot just 34.4 percent as a team.
As the Big Ten picture has taken shape, Michigan State and Michigan have clearly established themselves as the two stalwarts. Both have veteran cores, plenty of depth and a Hall of Fame coach. Punching up would be a tall task for the Terps, and although it’s reasonable to hope for a more competitive performance, one poor result doesn’t change that Maryland is 7-2 in conference play, third behind only those two teams. The Terps’ win streak to start the new year has them still ahead of the rest of the pack, at least for now.
Maryland has some time to rest before a Saturday matchup with Illinois at Madison Square Garden, and it returns home on Jan. 29 to play Northwestern. After that, it’s an absolutely ridiculous five-game stretch to start February: at Wisconsin and Nebraska, then home against Purdue, then at No. 2 Michigan and No. 19 Iowa.
It won’t get easier for the Terps, but they’ve still got plenty of room to grow.
In other news
Here’s Lamar on the good, the bad and the ugly from the loss.
The Terps’ No. 13 ranking doesn’t feel so special now, but it’s the highest Maryland’s been in the AP poll since 2016.
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