Michigan State can't ride hot start, stumbles vs. Maryland in Big Ten tournament ouster
Indianapolis — Michigan State was riding high when it walked into Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday.
The Spartans were fresh off a victory over Michigan on Sunday, a game that capped a furious finish to the season and likely locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the Spartans.
And for the better part of the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s matchup with Maryland in the Big Ten tournament, it looked like the Spartans were going to continue riding that momentum.
That optimism didn’t last, though, as a quick start from Michigan State evaporated in a flurry of missed shots, fouls and frustration. The Spartans’ early 12-point lead disappeared as Maryland outscored Michigan State 23-7 to close the first half, then continued to pour it on in the second, cruising to a 68-57 victory to advance to take on top-seeded Michigan Friday in the tournament quarterfinals.
“I don’t know,” Aaron Henry said, shaking his head when asked what went wrong for the Spartans. “We missed a lot of shots and I was trying to drive. I had six turnovers, some I felt I was fouled on, but they didn’t call them. We just missed a lot of shots.”
It summed up the collapse for the Spartans, who built an early lead then closed the first half 1-for-9 and opened the second 2-for-17. At one point, they went nearly 12 minutes without a field goal. Add in the fact they were called for 24 fouls — 13 in the first half — and turned it over 18 times leading to 27 points for the Terrapins, and it explained the frustration.
It was frustration that boiled over as coach Tom Izzo was called for a technical foul late in the first half as Maryland (16-12) was on a 16-3 run to grab the lead.
“I solely pray that every alum out there looks at this game and doesn't say one thing to a player and just blames me,” Izzo said. “I let the officiating get to me in the first half. In 26 years in this job, that should never happen. That's totally my fault. Not for the technical, just the entire situation. I did a poor job and a coach has got to be able to admit when he did just like I'd be able to tell you when I think a player did.”
The box score spelled out Michigan State’s woes on the offensive end, as the Spartans finished 4-for-16 from 3-point range and made only nine of 18 free-throw attempts. Henry scored 12 but was 5-for-12 shooting and turned the ball over six times. Joshua Langford was 1-for-8 shooting and Rocket Watts made only one shots.
The lone bright spot for Michigan State was Malik Hall, who scored a career-high 19 but was the first player to get in foul trouble and sat as Maryland clawed back into the game in the final 10 minutes of the second half.
“I don't want to put a guy back in there with two fouls because if he gets third, I'm in trouble,” Izzo said. “So again, something that we can critique me on and say play him with two. But that hurt us a lot, especially in that stretch. He did do a hell of a job. He put the ball on the floor better, he hit a couple of three. Malik's a good player.”
Maryland (16-12) likely locked up its spot in the NCAA Tournament by taking advantage at the free-throw line. The Terrapins went 15-for-16 from the free-throw line in the first half and when they trailed the Spartans, 26-24, they had made only four shots to Michigan State’s 11.
Eric Ayala scored 21, going 10-for-11 from the line, while Aaron Wiggins added 19 for the Terrapins.
“Michigan State came out hot and we we're down 12, and we weren't guarding,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We weren't really locked in on our defensive assignments. Then we did we lock in, we started competing. We started battling. For 31 minutes we really defended and played with great toughness. Our offense wasn't great, but it was good enough.”
Michigan State was in control early, moving the ball on offense and getting every shot it wanted, using a 13-2 run to take a 17-6 lead a little more than six minutes into the game. After Joey Hauser scored a pair of buckets around a Langford layup, the lead grew to 23-11. A 16-3 run by the Terrapins that included two free throws on the Izzo technical was capped by one of five Maryland 3-pointers, giving the Terps a 27-26 lead.
After Michigan State pulled back in front, 30-29, the Terrapins got two more free throws then took advantage of an MSU offensive foul and Ayala hit another triple at the buzzer to give Maryland a 34-30 lead at halftime.
“We definitely lacked a little energy after about the first 10 minutes,” Hall said. “We just kind of started to let their little run at the beginning get us down and we just never recovered from it.”
Michigan State only made one basket and had seven turnovers in the final 10 minutes of the half then missed its first eight shots of the second half as Maryland pushed its lead to 40-30 in the first three minutes. The Spartans got as close as 42-34 after a Marcus Bingham dunk, but a Maryland triple, a turnover and a layup for the Terrapins pushed the lead back to double digits and Michigan State was never able to get it any closer as Maryland poured it on in the final minutes.
“I don't want me complaining about the consistency (of the officials) to take anything away from two things,” Izzo said. “We didn't play good enough, even though I thought we had a great game plan and I thought it worked early, and I don't want to take any of (Maryland’s) thunder away. They played the way we used to play. They played physically tougher, and I really appreciated that.”
Michigan State must now wait in Indianapolis until Sunday to see if its late-season surge was enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament. Winning five of the final seven likely did the job, but a win Thursday would have eliminated any doubt.
“I don't think we're good enough to beat anybody, we’ve proven we're good enough to beat anybody,” Izzo said. “But our margin for error is very slim. … But I always say you’ve got to be able to self-evaluate. So the good news is, I'll go in that room and I’ll beat the hell out of myself tonight for it, and that’ll be OK.”