Maryland struggles late against No. 6 Michigan State

Maryland basketball
Photo courtesy of UMTerps.com

By: Eddie Hobbs

A 30-second shot clock violation by No. 6 Michigan State followed by a couple of three-point makes for Dion Wiley ignited the Xfinity Center crowd in the early moments of Maryland’s 74-68 loss against the Spartans.

A defensive tone was set early by the Terps who forced Michigan State into eight turnovers throughout the first half, resulting in 15 points.

In Maryland’s 30-point loss to the Spartans on January 1, the Spartans were able to get whatever they wanted inside the paint due to efficient pick-and-roll plays.

That kind of penetration inside the paint leaves shooters wide open from beyond the three-point line, and Michigan State shot a blistering 57 percent because of it.

The difference on Sunday afternoon was that Maryland didn’t let the pick-and-roll kill them, and switched on players effectively.

While Maryland had to focus on defense to stop Michigan State, the offense was clicking as well early. Wiley started for the eighth time this season and was a big reason for the hot start for Maryland.

After Wiley knocked down his second three pointer of the game to give Maryland an 8-0 lead, former Terp Greivis Vasquez jumped out of his seat and gave a few fist pumps to fuel more fire into the crowd.

Michigan State had a favorable matchup with Jeron Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges as they were being guarded by an undersized Darryl Morsell. The freshman didn’t waiver, and kept the big guys in front of him. Turgeon would frequently send over another player to help Morsell limit the lengthy Spartans.

Bridges is a key player to this Michigan State team, and over his last three games the sophomore forward was shooting 72 percent from the field and was averaging 25 points per game.

The Terps limited Bridges to just 3-of-13 shooting, and featured a few double teams to limit his presence inside the paint.

Maryland entered the half up by 13, and Kevin Huerter admitted that the team was too excited going into the locker room, and did not execute when they needed to most.

“We got up 13 and we were all, ‘ra ra’ at halftime, we were excited,” Huerter said. “We knew the game wasn’t over, but we were excited and we got ahead of ourselves a little bit. I knew they weren’t going to give up, that’s not the type of team they are.”

Maryland was able to get by in the first half because of Michigan State’s missed shots. But when the second half started, the Spartans started draining more open looks.

Before Maryland could blink, the 13-point halftime lead dwindled down to just one point with 16:13 remaining in the game. The Spartans went on a 18-4 run that drained the life out of the Maryland crowd to gain control of the game.

“We were bad in transition two straight possessions — same two guys. And they made shots,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “There’s a reason they were preseason number one. They’ve got a lot of pros running around on their side.”

Throughout most of the second half, Maryland was forced into taking bad shots due to great defensive pressure from Michigan State. The Terps shot 43 percent in the first half, but were limited to just 34 percent shooting in the second half, and only 22 percent from beyond the arc.

With 3:41 remaining, Maryland was down by seven, and Huerter knocked down a bomb from deep to cut the lead to four. Just when it looked like Maryland could get back into the game, Michigan State closed the door with a couple of key offensive rebounds.

Jared Nickens missed a three-point attempt that would have put Maryland down by just one point, but grabbed his missed shot and put up a floater to cut the lead to two.

That would be the last run the Terps had in them as Maryland failed to grab a missed Bridges jumper with one minute remaining.

The game was overshadowed by a report that surfaced January 26 that outlined sexual abuse allegations made against former members of the Michigan State basketball team as well as the football team. Head coach Tom Izzo was asked multiple times about the reports that came out after the game.

Maryland is running out of time to gain quality wins with the season winding down. The Terps will have to travel to Purdue to take on a hot Boilermaker team Wednesday night. Maryland is just 1-5 away from the Xfinity Center, and will need this win to build their resume.

“We just have to learn from it,” senior guard Nickens said. ” We can’t dwell on it. We have to move on to the next day.”

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