Even though the rankings and records pointed to a considerable disparity between the two sides, Maryland competed — to the very last second.
Smothered on the drive and on his rise to the rim, the Spartan’s Malik Hall finished the layup to be the last second hero.
Following his go-ahead layup and with just 1.9 on the clock, Maryland (11-11, 3-8 B1G) was forced to launch an unsuccessful half-court heave and went on to exit Xfinity Center for the second straight night fruitlessly, in a 65-63 loss to No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 8-2 B1G) in front of another commanding crowd — which was this time draped in black.
Whether it was by virtue of the poor start that Michigan State trudged through in the first half or the willing defense and aggressive shot-taking of Maryland, it was clear the Terps were inclined to challenge one of the Big Ten’s best — an encouraging sign for a team that is seemingly headed through the most challenging part of its schedule.
“Extremely happy and proud of the effort our guys used to fight back … we’re gonna feed off this down the stretch,” interim head coach Manning said. “We can definitely pull a couple things from this game and … use this as we go into the tail end of the conference season.”
Indeed, the Terps did enough to challenge the Spartans, but were far too undermanned to find a reasonable way to beat them.
With just eight players in the rotation for the night, Maryland’s climb back from a 10 point halftime deficit was an uphill battle. The 7-2 run to open the period and extend the Spartan lead to 15 only made matters worse for the underdogs.
Michigan State’s success was a product of the turnovers Maryland let up in spurts — four in the 10-0 run to end the first half and one to lengthen the second half. Most of which were of the preventable variety; travels and errant passes stunted the Terps as the Spartans scored 17 points off of their mistakes.
So, with its limited lineup, Maryland sought to cover the ground they lost with an 11-0 run, and spent the rest of the closing period jostling back-and-forth to make up the four point difference.
“Energy and juice,” Manning said, referring to what made the difference as Maryland made its way back into the game. “Being able to feed off the crowd when we were able to get stops and deflections was really big for us.”
Fifteen minutes of tireless basketball began with an Eric Ayala and-one layup and ended with a game-tying Fatts Russell three. In between, Maryland aptly limited it’s turnovers and battled on the defensive end to keep the Spartans close.
Plenty of successful trips to the line granted Maryland 13 easy points as well.
Qudus Wahab slammed once to clean up a poor drive to the cup, Julian Reese livened the crowd with his own 6-1 run, Donta Scott responded to a poor shooting streak with a handful of drives to the basket that broke his spell of lifeless outings and suddenly Maryland had a chance to upset Manning’s ideal brand of basketball — offense that lived in the paint coupled with considerable looks from the charity stripe.
The Spartan’s dug deep in their rotation and leaned on the all-around play of their numerous role players, like Hall, who came off the bench and finished with a game high 16 points. Michigan State rolled out 10 other athletes to make an 11-man rotation. Maryland made do with its eight men, but it came at the price of Ayala logging 39 minutes and Scott nearly fouling out in his 29 minute outing.
Reese was the only bench player who mustered points in the second half and scored his only six points of the game in the closing half. Maryland was outscored 26-8 in bench points.
But once Russell splashed his three from the top of the key to even the game to 61 apiece and inject more life into the crowd, he let out a sigh of relief and relaxed his shoulders. He was tired, and the hard work had been done. Maryland conquered its 15-point disadvantage — but it wasn’t enough to win.
Both sides exchanged points in free throws, and Michigan State ended as the last to score and Spartans head coach Tom Izzo and Hall made sure Maryland was left with no time to convert a quality answer. Russell’s half court three-ball banged off the backboard at the final buzzer.
“As a team, I thought we fought hard,” Ayala said. “[That’s] something we can build off of.”