Home court advantage is vital. Just ask Maryland basketball. Prior to Saturday night’s marquee match against Michigan State, the Terps were 15-0 at the Xfinity Center. The first time the two sides met, Maryland found an extra gear in the last 10 minutes to leave East Lansing with a crucial win. This time the Terps had the support of their own raucous home crowd. But they could not deliver. The Spartans quickly made Xfinity their own home and lead rather comfortably for 39 minutes of a highly anticipated College Gameday rematch.
Michigan State, aside from some mishaps, played a full 40 minutes, occasionally punctuated by Maryland’s short spurts of high speed offense. In the end, the Spartans handed the Terps their first home loss of the season on a 78-66 score line
“They were good,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “They were better than us tonight.”
In a familiar scenario, the Terps fell into a double-digit deficit and spent the entirety of the game searching for a lead. The Spartans came out firing, scoring from wherever they pleased, draining seven of their first eight shots. Again, in another familiar setting, the Terps eventually found their footing. Unlike other contests, however, the Terps were unable to capture a lead in the first half.
“They ran their offense at a high level in the first twelve minutes of the game. It became hard to catch up with them,” said head coach Mark Turgeon.
Clawing back from a 17-5 disadvantage, the Terps eventually tied the game — for just 25 seconds. After finally equaling the Spartans, the Terps endured a six-minute scoring drought that ultimately led to an 11-point Spartan lead going into the halftime break. Cassius Winston owned the period, leading all scorers with 13 points, capped off with a half court buzzer beater.
The second half brought much of the same for the Spartan offense. Rocket Watts, Xavier Tillman, and Malik Hall joined in on the offensive fireworks and combined for 27 points in the second half. The two sides exchanged buckets for much of the period, giving Maryland little opportunities to take the lead.
At the midway point of the half, Maryland burst out for an 8-0 run to cut the Michigan State lead to just nine points. In this sequence, Jalen Smith asserted his dominance over Tillman. For much of the game, Michigan State’s senior center had a response for everything the sophomore big threw at him on both sides of the court.
“I promise you [Xavier Tillman] is the best defender in the league,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
But “Stix”, failed to break out in time.
With the Michigan State lead under threat, Watts did as he had done all game — and hit two timely jump shots that stretched the lead by five more points.
“He’s playing so hard defensively,” said Izzo. “He played so hard that he brings some energy to the team.”
At the four minute mark, Winston iced the game with a four point play in the corner. The timely three pointers and second chance opportunities put Maryland’s hopes of winning to bed. With no supporting cast, the efforts of Smith went to waste in an underwhelming team performance.