COLLEGE PARK, Maryland– Both the Maryland Terrapins (15-10) and the Michigan State Spartans (13-10) entered their matchup on Sunday looking for a resume-boosting win. Both teams had slow starts to the Big Ten season, leaving them in danger of being outside the field of 68 for the first time in many years. For Michigan State, missing the NCAA tournament would break a 22-year streak of tournament appearances. For Maryland, their streak goes back 4 years to 2015. But recently, both teams have made a push to put them on the brink of making the field.
For Maryland, they secured a crucial win towards extending their streak, as they lead the entire game in a 73-55 win over Michigan State. They jumped out to an 11-0 run to start the game and never looked back. The Maryland defense was key as they held Michigan State to just 33.3% shooting from the field. After the game, forward Aaron Henry said that 11-0 run was the difference in the game.
“That was the game, to me. They hit shots. They were ready to play,” said Henry.
With the win, Maryland’s spot in the tournament looks secure as they improve to 9-9 in Big Ten Play. Michigan State will now have more work to do down the stretch if they wish to continue their tournament appearance streak. The loss drops them to 7-10 and 10th in the Big Ten Standings.
Taking advantage at the three-point line and free-throw line
For Maryland, their offense ran through their guards and their shooters. Strong three-point shooting helped Maryland jump out to the double-digit lead; they shot 50% from behind-the- arc in the game.
Down the stretch, it was aggressive dribble drives that allowed Maryland to get to the free- throw line at will. Led by guard Eric Ayala, Maryland shot an outstanding 96% from the free- throw line, knocking down 23-24. Ayala was perfect from the line, knocking down all 13 attempts.
Their efficiency on offense made the Michigan State comeback attempt all that much harder. Michigan State was able to trim the lead to 6 in the second half, but could not overcome the Maryland lead completely. Maryland finished the game shooting 49% from the field of the team.
Strong defense limits the Michigan State leaders
In the past week, seniors Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford have been the catalyst for Michigan State’s late-season push. Henry led the team in scoring in the wins against No. 5 Illinois and No. 4 Ohio State with 20 points and 18 points, respectively. For Langford, he pulled in double-digit rebounds against Illinois and hit key buckets down the stretch against Ohio State.
On Sunday, those two were kept under control by the Maryland defense, especially in the second half. Henry finished with 11 points and Langford finished with 12 and combined to shoot 7-29 from the field. Maryland used a 2-3 trapping zone to get the ball out of the post players’ hands, and it worked to perfection. The Michigan State guards failed to penetrate the zone with much regularity, and it slowed down their offense. They shot just 33.3% from the field and 28.6% from behind-the-arc.
The loss puts Michigan State looking for another key win down the stretch to bolster their tournament resume. They will have an opportunity for their best win of the season as they face off with their rivals, the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines, twice next week.
Michigan State vs. Indiana, Tuesday, March 2, Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
Maryland @ Northwestern, Wednesday, March 3, Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, IL