In front of a sellout crowd, capping off a day highlighted by ESPN’s College GameDay, Michigan State was stronger than Maryland in some crucial areas. The Spartans were efficient offensively and started fast in both halves guiding them to the 78-66 victory.
“The difference was this: they had 19 second-chance points and 13 transition points, at times we didn’t even have guys picked up,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Maryland needs to play faster
Throughout this season, Maryland has been at its best, pushing the pace in transition using their athleticism to their advantage. Michigan State pushed the pace consistently on offense, particularly early on, which played a large part in their scorching start from the field. Guard Cassius Winston was influential in that respect, sprinting up the floor and using his speed to create open opportunities.
Anthony Cowan, similar to Winston, is one of the quickest guards in the country and should look to use his speed from the outset on more possessions. With Cowan serving as the quarterback of the Terps offense, he needs to set the tone alongside other primary ball handlers like Eric Ayala. He simply wasn’t as effective Saturday.
When Maryland found success in the first half, executing an 18-6 run, the Terps consistently pushed the pace offensively off a missed shot or a turnover. During that run, athletic wings like Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins flourished attacking the basket, in early offensive sets.
“I’ve argued all year long that I want to see [Maryland] play faster,” ESPN analyst LaPhonso Ellis said.
While the Terps certainly don’t need to push the pace on every possession, finding a balance between fast and methodical offense will be critical heading into the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. With two games remaining before the conference tournament, the Terps will have an opportunity to build on that consistency in the coming weeks.
Maryland’s struggles on the glass doomed them in defeat
In the first meeting between the two teams, Maryland controlled the glass in the first half, whole the Spartans had the edge in the second. However, Saturday was a different story, as the Spartans compiled ten offensive rebounds, setting up second-chance opportunities to help maintain the lead. Xavier Tillman and Malik Hall grabbed five offensive rebounds, using their physicality and size to their advantage.
“We have to be more aggressive coming out against other aggressive teams,” Donta Scott said. “We have to be the tougher team, we have to play harder, we just have to go out there and do it.”
Each time Maryland seemed to battle back; the Spartans came up with a crucial offensive rebound. With 6:56 remaining in the second half and Maryland making up ground, Tillman grabbed a crucial offensive rebound. Off the offensive rebound, the Spartans worked the ball around, and Rocket Watts buried a three extending the Spartans lead to 12.
That pivotal shot deflated Maryland’s momentum and took the energy out of the Xfinity Center crowd. Similar sequences happened in the first half, with Watts nailing an open three after Maryland’s defense was unsettled off second-chance opportunities. While the Spartans didn’t have a sizable rebounding advantage, they came up with the crucial rebounds in the most important moments of the game.
The tandem of Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman outplayed Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith
Leading Maryland 37-29 just before halftime, Cassius Winston rose up just beyond half court and buried the buzzer beater to put Michigan State up by 11. Winston was sensational throughout, finishing with 20 points and consistently making big time shots. With 5:11 remaining in the game, Winston buried another clutch shot — this time sinking an open three from the corner, plus a foul from Jalen Smith. The four-point play extended the Spartans lead to 15 once again and ended Maryland’s comeback hopes.
While Winston was sensational up top, Tillman excelled on both ends of the floor with 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Tillman and Winston ran the high screen and roll effectively throughout, creating easy baskets either rolling off the screen or kicking out to an open shooter when the Maryland defense collapsed. Despite “Stix” finishing with 20 points, Tillman made it difficult for him to find any rhythm offensively.
Two weeks ago, in East Lansing, Anthony Cowan served as the hero, burying three clutch threes in the final minutes to Maryland to victory. On Saturday he finished with a measly 13 points on 6-15 shooting. Every time he touched the ball, he was hounded by either Watts or Xavier Henry, with the guard becoming visibly frustrated as the game wore on. Also, Cowan went 0-3 from behind the arc, and is now 0-12 from three in his last three games.
“Yeah [Anthony] was frustrated, he’s just gotta play the way he’s played all year,” Turgeon said.
In the first matchup, “Stix” and Cowan were the better duo, however, last night in College Park the Spartans veterans impressed and led them to victory.