After dropping a big road game against Indiana on Monday, the Terps got nearly an entire week of rest leading up to their rematch with #6 Michigan State. The Spartans had a much more turbulent week. In wake of the Larry Nassar trial, the University has been in hot water, specifically the athletic programs.
In addition to this, Michigan State’s basketball team faced a tough schedule this past week. They were able to defeat Illinois and Wisconsin despite all of the chaos around their program but the stress and pressure of playing three games in seven days certainly toke a toll on the Spartans when they entered College Park on Sunday.
Maryland has been desperately waiting for a rematch after losing by 30 points when they traveled to East Lansing a few weeks ago. The Terps didn’t waste any time getting their home crowd involved with a pair of three pointers by Dion Wiley and an alley oop dunk by Darryl Morsell.
This early 8-0 lead put the momentum in their favor right from the start. The Terps would not surrender that lead until the second half. No matter how close the Spartans got, Maryland had an answer. Fueled by the raucous crowd, Maryland’s offense was able to run a lot of fast breaks and enjoyed a lot of success in transition. Overall the shots were falling for Maryland while the Spartans struggled to shoot above 30% from the field.
The Spartans were clearly not playing their best basketball. They turned the ball over a lot and missed some layups while trying to keep up with the Terps. Maryland did a great job of shutting down Michigan State’s top scorers though. Miles Bridges and Nick Ward combined for just five points on 2-11 shooting in the first half.
The second half was a completely different story. Despite taking a 13 point lead at the break, the Terps couldn’t keep Michigan State from erasing that lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The Spartans made major adjustments during the break and didn’t have any problems changing the pace of play in their favor.
For the first time in the game, Maryland was forced to play a close game and that is when their depth issues became exposed. I give Anthony Cowan all the credit in the world for being the leader of this offense but he is playing too many minutes per game. The sophomore has delivered some great performances this season but I think the pressure of playing a lot of minutes is starting to catch up with him. In recent games, Cowan has struggled in crunch time and the second half in general. Sundays game was no different.
A balanced offensive attack helped give Maryland the lead in the first half but in the second they were forced to slow things down and Cowan was called upon to shoot more than his share.
The two teams battled throughout the entire second half with the refs calling every small foul along the way. Both teams entered the bonus quickly and the foul shooting became the main source of scoring in the final minutes. Maryland kept their opponent close enough for a late game rally but their rebounding would end up killing them.
Kevin Huerter hit a big three pointer with 3:30 left and Jarred Nickens followed with a layup to make it a one possession game. As a top ten team, the Spartans have faced a lot of situations like this and they showed the amount of composure you would expect while sealing a victory on Sunday.
Maryland played some good defense without fouling but they just couldn’t get their hands on the rebounds. It was a problem all day but with the game on the line, Michigan State was able to reset their shot clock and drain a lot of extra time in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans racked up 19 offensive boards on the afternoon and out-rebounded the Terps 46-29 overall.
Michigan State utilized this advantage and made the necessary foul shots to secure a 74-68 win. Maryland has now dropped five of their last seven and the NCAA tournament is looking almost out of reach. There is a lot of basketball left before we get to March but Maryland is running out of opportunities against top-tier competition.
Even if they manage to take down a ranked team, a deep run in the conference tournament might be necessary to punch a ticket for March. The Terps will have to regroup quickly as they travel to face #3 Purdue on Wednesday.
Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP