'Heck of a win': Michigan State smothers Maryland, stays perfect in Big Ten
East Lansing — Michigan State was happy to be at home on Monday night.
The Spartans were also feeling fortunate they happen to have one of the best defenses in the nation. That aspect of the game played a vital role on Monday night as No. 6 Michigan State defeated No. 13 Maryland, 69-55, at the Breslin Center for their 12th straight victory while snapping Maryland’s seven-game winning streak.
Michigan State (17-2, 8-0 Big Ten) limited Maryland to 34.4 percent shooting (21-for-61) while holding junior guard Anthony Cowan to just seven points despite entering the game averaging 17.9 a game.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but I was really impressed with our defense,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “This was a heck of a win because Maryland is a very good team. We did a heck of a job on Cowan but in general, that is a very good basketball team and we didn’t play great but found a way to win and that’s what you have to do this time of year. A lot of teams are getting upset and our defense saved us.”
It saves the Spartans on a night they were not getting much from their two offensive stars.
Cassius Winston scored 14 and handed out seven assists, but he was just 5-for-13 shooting while center Nick Ward battled foul trouble and did not score in 13:39 of action. It was the first time in his Michigan State career he was held scoreless.
The rest of the lineup picked up the slack, however, as Kenny Goins scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Aaron Henry scored a career-high 12. Matt McQuaid and Xavier Tillman added 10 points each for Michigan State.
“At any given point we have guys who can give us 10 points,” Tillman said. “Whether it’s Aaron or Gabe (Brown). Nick can get you 20. Kenny can get you 10. Cash can get you 20. Quaido can get you 20 or 10. (Kyle Ahrens) can get you 10. Josh (Langford) can get you 20). We got a variety of guys that can get you 20 or 10 points a game. So it’s kinda like whoever is hot that night we go to them.”
It was enough to overwhelm Maryland, which entered the game winners of three straight road games. But the young Terrapins struggled against the Spartans.
Aaron Wiggins scored 15 to lead Maryland (16-4, 7-2) while Bruno Fernando scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Darryl Morsell chipped in 10 points.
“Michigan State was really good tonight,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We let them do what they do well, which is run. That’s a really good team and they’ve been really dominant in this building, and they can really guard you.”
The first half was a battle of runs as Michigan State struck first, outscoring Maryland 15-2 early in the first half to take an 18-6 lead with 11:40 to play. The Terrapins responded, though, by scoring the next eight and capping a 12-2 run with a Jalen Smith jumper to tie the game at 20 with 4:24 left in the first half. The Spartans answered, however, and scored the final 11 points of the half to take a 31-20 lead into the locker room.
Both teams went through difficult stretches shooting the ball. The Terps missed 10 straight as Michigan State was busy building its early 12-point lead. The Spartans then made 1-of-8 shots during Maryland’s run, the only bucket coming on a Tillman dunk in transition.
Winston was held in check, scoring just five points and handing out three assists in the first half while Ward got in early foul trouble and did not score in his seven minutes of action, taking just two shots.
Michigan State kept the momentum rolling as the second half began, getting a quick 3-pointer from Winston to cap a 14-0 run. Two minutes later, the Spartans took off on a 10-0 run to take a 48-26 lead after a 3-pointer from Goins with 15:26 to play.
Maryland began to chip away, however, getting three straight 3-pointers and whittling the deficit down to 12 at 54-42. But the Spartans responded, once, again pushing the lead back to 61-45 after a transition layup from Ahrens. Five straight from the Terrapins trimmed the advantage to 11 with just more than five minutes to play, but Michigan State responded by scoring the next six to go up, 67-50, with 4:28 left in the game.
The lead eventually was pushed to 69-50 as Michigan State put the game away from there.
“What I’m proudest of this team is you look at some of the teams recently that have been knocked off, they’re really good teams,” Izzo said. “We haven’t fallen to that this year. We were kinda mad that an 11-point lead grew to 22 then it went back to 11. It’s kind of a neat thing to be mad about when you think about it because we still played a very quality team.”