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Michigan State can't recover from sluggish start in loss to Maryland

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Michigan State’s game with Maryland on Sunday tipped off just after 2 p.m.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, it took them a few extra minutes to get ready, and in the meantime, the Terrapins jumped on the opportunity, scoring the first 11 points of the game and never truly relinquishing control as they went on to beat Michigan State, 73-55, at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland.

The loss ended Michigan State’s three-game winning streak and offered a stark reminder that there’s still plenty of work to do to get into the NCAA Tournament, but it was the opening handful of minutes that had the Spartans frustrated.

“That was the worst first six minutes that we played all year,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Maybe in a couple of years. I mean, I just thought we were standing around.

“Give (Maryland) some credit, but we were just standing around and if that would happen in the second half, I would have felt a little different about it. But it really ticked me off the way we started out because that's the way the game went. The game might as well have ended three minutes into the game, because that was really the same as it was at the end of the game.”

BOX SCORE: Maryland 73, Michigan State 55

Maryland’s three straight 3-pointers and a pair of free throws had Michigan State on its heels, but the fact the Spartans had on offensive rhythm hurt, as well. They missed their first six shots, and five of them were 3-pointers after the ball wasn’t moving.

“That was the game, right there,” Michigan State’s Aaron Henry said. “They came out and hit shots early and they were ready to play.”

More:Spartans feel the drag of playing fourth game in a week during Terrapins defeat

Michigan State made its share of runs the rest of the way, pulling to within five with just less than 10 minutes to play. But the hole dug in the opening minutes proved too deep.

“Even though there’s no fans, playing an away game in the Big Ten, it’s kind of hard to claw back,” Michigan State’s Joshua Langford said. “We had a lot of mental mistakes defensively that we can't have, and I had a few myself. You know, the margin of error is really small right now, so we have to be really focusing in as a unit.”

The loss ended what had been shaping put to be a remarkable week for the Spartans (13-10, 7-10 Big Ten). A victory on Sunday might have been enough to lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, extending Michigan State’s streak to 23 seasons. Instead, there’s plenty of work ahead, even after getting back-to-back wins this week over No. 5 Illinois and No. 4 Ohio State, two victories that followed up a win at Indiana.

Now, as Langford said, the margin for error is slim, especially after letting the opportunity slip away against the Terrapins, who now have won five in a row and are almost certainly in the tournament field.

“Today the ball didn’t bounce our way,” Henry said. “And that’s going to happen and I'm not gonna go home and pout about it. I’m not going to go home and put my head down. We’ll prepare for the next opportunity we have on Tuesday because that's what's necessary. Nobody’s ever gone in the past and changed anything, so I'm certainly not going to dwell on it now. We lost. It is what it is, and we have to fight on Tuesday.”

Langford scored 12 to lead Michigan State while Henry scored 11, but the duo combined to shoot 7-for-29 as the Spartans had no offensive flow, going 8-for-28 from 3-point range. Joey Hauser added 11 points for Michigan State.

Michigan State forward Malik Hall (25) reacts after being called for a foul against Maryland during the second half Sunday in College Park, Maryland.

Eric Ayala scored 22 for Maryland (15-10, 9-9), which hadn’t played since last Sunday. Aaron Wiggins added 13 points, Darryl Morsell scored 11 and Hakim Hart added 10 points for the Terrapins as six different players hit a 3-pointer.

As good as Michigan State was over the previous three games, it was just as bad in the opening 20 minutes at Maryland as the Terrapins hit six of their first eight from 3-point range as the Spartans failed to contest many shots. Maryland ended the first half 6-for-10 from long range while stifling Michigan State at the other end of the court.

The Spartans didn’t get on the scoreboard until Henry scored on a layup with 13:51 to play in the opening half, going just more than six minutes without a point. From there, things didn’t get much easier as Michigan State was setting for jumpers when it couldn’t get in the lane against the Maryland defense. The Spartans took 15 3-pointers in the first half, making only four.

“We settled for 3s a little bit too much,” Izzo said. “Aaron’s were right on and Josh’s were pretty much on, they were just short, and that was the story of the night. … I was just disappointed in that start.”

Add in six Michigan State turnovers and the seven points Maryland scored off of them, and it was all Terrapins in the first half as they took a 35-25 lead into the locker room.

“We made shots early,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.  “Darryl made one, Hakim made one, and that helped, but our defense was shot out of a cannon at the start of the game. We were really good defensively probably for 36 minutes today.”

Michigan State tried to make a push early in the second half after a Gabe Brown 3-pointer pulled the Spartans within 45-38 with 13:04 to play. After getting a stop, Henry drove the basket with a chance to pull within five points, but his shot was blocked, leading to a run-out dunk for the Terrapins. Two more free throws on the next possession restored the Terps’ double-digit lead as they went up 49-38 with 11:37 to play.

The Spartans responded with six in a row to pull within five, but Hart scored on a runner for the Terps to put them up, 51-44. After trading baskets, Maryland took over, going on a 10-4 run to push the lead to 15 and put the game away.

Michigan State now gets one day off before hosting Indiana on Tuesday in another critical game. The Spartans beat the Hoosiers last weekend and now both teams are on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

“We’ve got to deal with it,” Izzo said of the condensed schedule. “So, we’ll deal with it and we’re going to be ready to play on Tuesday, I promise you that. There will be no 11-0 start on Tuesday.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau