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

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Michigan State wasn’t about to use it as an excuse, but there was clearly a little bit missing from the Spartans on Sunday afternoon in College Park, Md.

Playing their fourth game in a week and coming off back-to-back wins over a pair of top-five teams, the Spartans weren’t quite at full steam in a 73-55 loss to Maryland.

Call it fatigue, call it the reality of a late-season schedule full of games thanks to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Call it what you will, it was clear one team had been through the wringer over the past seven days while the other had the benefit of a week off.

“I thought (Maryland) played good and I’ve been for this play every game (approach),” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “So, there's no excuse on it, but there's a reality to it. And the reality is, we were in two of the toughest games ever and I think it took something out of those guys.”

If shooting the ball is any indication of being tired or not, then Michigan State was tired early and it never really was able to pull itself out of its funk.

Michigan State forward Aaron Henry (0) goes up for a shot against Maryland during the first half.

Aaron Henry, Michigan State’s leading scorer, misses all eight shots he took in the second half and finished the game 4-for-16, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range. And Joshua Langford, who has been critical to the Spartans’ late-season surge, was just 3-for-13, including 2-for-8 from 3-point range.

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“I just felt like I was short on shots,” Henry said. “You’re going to have those types of days when it goes like that. They played good defense, they made all their free throws, they made shots, they competed. Credit them, but I felt like I took what the defense gave me, I just missed shots. I was short on a lot of them. I was right on, but a few just fell short.”

Izzo saw the same thing from Langford.

“He was falling (back) a little bit and they were right on, just short,” Izzo said. “And I'm not sure if it was fatigue. I think maybe it was he just couldn't get the lift and he couldn't jump over a guy, so a lot of his shots he was falling backwards. … So I don't know if that was fatigue. I hate using the word.”

So do the Spartans.

For Henry, a player who said over the past week that he doesn’t have time to get tired, there’s no point in lamenting it. There won’t be a chance for a break now, so it’s something the Spartans have to fight through.

“Whether we’re tired or not, it doesn't matter,” Henry said. “We’re playing for a lot. This is our last game of February and I’ve played in March before. I understand what it takes. At this time, everybody around the country's legs are tired, just from the duration of the season. I'll never use it as an excuse, no matter how I feel. I’ll just go home, take an ice bath and prepare for Indiana.”

As Izzo pointed out, there’s nothing anyone can do about the schedule.

“It’s the reality of what we're going through,” Izzo said. “We’re going to get them freshened up somehow because they’ve got a lot to play for.”

Hauser perks up

Not everything was bad for Michigan State.

After struggling through parts of the Big Ten season, Joey Hauser has started to come around. He scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds, going 3-for-6 from 3-point range. And Malik Hall played a solid 23 minutes, scoring seven points and pulling down three rebounds.

“I really feel good about Joey,” Izzo said. “He hit some threes, he actually played more physical inside, he gets eight rebounds and he guarded people a little better. I think he’s working himself out of some things, and nothing’s been easy through all this but that was very encouraging, and I think Malik played a little better

“But I thought Joey was one of the most encouraging parts of our day, and I thought Malik was second.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau