Maryland women’s basketball lost its first game since November on Thursday, falling 82-68 to Michigan State.
After losing Blair Watson for the season with a torn ACL, the No. 11 Terps saw their 13-game losing streak come to an end. Michigan State’s Taryn McCutcheon hit six threes and scored 25 points, while the Terps shot 39 percent from the floor and committed a ghastly 24 turnovers.
“[Blair’s] a big part of our team both on and off the court,” sophomore Kaila Charles said after the game. “But everybody steps up when their number is called, it’s just today wasn’t one of those days.”
The Spartans’ first quarter approach was to take their scoring opportunities quickly and frequently. It didn’t matter if the shot clock had just started, or if the final 10-second countdown had begun, if a player was open: Michigan State was shooting. Quantity over quality worked in their favor, as the team ended the quarter with a 17-15 lead over Maryland.
The early standout for the Terps was Eleanna Christinaki. The Greek international scored an early seven points for Maryland, which included an acrobatic layup following a nasty crossover on Spartan forward Sidney Cooks.
But that’s where the first-half highlights stopped. After building up a 15-10 lead, the Terps were hit with a cold spell in their shooting that spread throughout the team. Maryland ended the first quarter with 40 percent shooting from the field, but ended the second quarter shooting 7-of-21. The Spartans, on the other hand, shot even better as they increased their lead over the Terps into the half, 38-31.
Another big problem for Maryland came at the end of referee whistles. While Michigan State ended the half with more fouls than Maryland, the Terps committed more of theirs on the offensive end, which brought most potential runs and scoring opportunities to an abrupt halt.
The third quarter saw hope quickly rise for Maryland, and then get immediately crushed by fate’s indiscriminate boot. With 4:30 left in the quarter, sophomore forward Stephanie Jones finished off a fast break, completing an 11-0 Maryland run to bring the Terps within one, 43-42. McCutcheon then remembered she was shooting 3-of-4 from behind the arc and put up two consecutive threes to ignite an 8-0 run and bring the lead back to double-digits, where it remained going into the fourth, 61-49.
In the final quarter, Maryland displayed the discipline of a person on a New Year’s diet with the “one step forward, two steps backwards” strategy. Whenever the Terps cut the lead to single digits, some comedy of errors would occur allowing the Spartans to bring it back to at least 10. Whether it was a call on Brianna Fraser for traveling or a bad handoff between Ieshia Small and Kaila Charles, Michigan State was gifted all the opportunities it needed to hang onto their lead until the final whistle.
“I think this is obviously another example of when you talk about the depth of the Big Ten on any given night and being prepared with who you’re going to face and being ready to play,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game.
The loss breaks Maryland’s 13-game winning streak and hands the team its first loss against Michigan State at home. It also becomes the first time Maryland lost to a Big Ten team not named Ohio State since joining the conference in 2014.
The Terps will face Indiana at Xfinity Center in their next game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET.
Three things to know
- Maryland was not ready for Michigan State’s midrange attempts. The Spartans took Throwback Thursday to a whole new level by playing an older style of basketball against the Terps. As mentioned earlier, Michigan State shot anytime it felt it was open enough to make a basket, which often came inside the arc, but outside the paint. The Terps didn’t close out and the Spartans made enough of those shots to make them a problem. The makes built the confidence Michigan State needed to shoot over 50 percent in the second half and ultimately secure the lead.
- Height played a big factor in the second half. While the numbers don’t show an overwhelming disparity in rebounds—Maryland won the glass 44-38—the Spartans were able to use their height advantage over the Terps in the right moments. One example came at the beginning of the fourth quarter where Maryland had four opportunities to get the defensive rebound, but Michigan State forwards were there to clean up the offensive glass.
- The refs really let Michigan State play. It was an incredibly physical game for the green and white. Officials allowed the Spartans to take advantage a few thrown forearms on drives to the basket, tough plays inside when they were on defense, and the occasional three-step toe-tap to keep the ball in-bounds. If only the Terps were so lucky.