The Maryland Terrapins will see their season come to an end in the next few days unless they can stir an unlikely turnaround in the Big Ten conference tournament. A loss to Michigan State on Sunday doesn’t help their cause but they will have an opportunity to exact revenge this week, with another contest vs. the Spartans set for Thursday.
The Terrapins seemed poised for a win on Sunday. Their bench players had jumped from their seats and rushed the court after a Michigan State timeout. They had watched on from the sidelines as Maryland put up a gutsy comeback that cut a 20-point deficit down to just three points. However, the final minutes saw them humbled again as they watched it slip away in what was the final game of the regular season.
The Spartans kicked off the tradition of letting all seniors acknowledge the effusive crowd and then kiss the logo at mid-court with a double-digit lead secure. They had struggled over the last few weeks but Sunday would be different as they started strongly and were able to stave off a Terrapins rally to win 77-67, a victory that made Tom Izzo the winningest coach in the history of the conference.
Maryland, the 10th seed, will play the seventh-seeded Michigan State this Thursday in Indianapolis. The Terps have lost to the Spartans twice already this season but interim coach Danny Manning saw positives in the second half of Sunday’s loss that left him encouraged. Like-minded fans could head to BetMGM Maryland to take a chance on their team following a half in which they saw the Terps outscore the Spartans 41-31.
Following a poor first half that started with Michigan State scoring the first 14 points and building an 18-1 lead, Manning disclosed having told his squad they needed to do a better job winning the fight. They did seem inspired after closing the half 46-26 and went right at the opposition as Eric Ayala put some impressive shooting on display and finished the game with 19 points.
A layup from Hakim Hart ended Maryland’s field goal drought to start the contest but it didn’t come until there were just over 11 minutes left in the first half. The Terps missed their first 14 attempts from the field and the only point came from a Hart effort at the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, Michigan State made 7 of 11 shots to kick things off and enjoyed a boost from Marcis Binham Jr., who scored back-to-back threes to force Manning into a timeout just three minutes into the game.
“They were energetic,” Maryland point guard Fatts Russell said. “They came out making a lot of shots early. We struggled offensively because they were making shots early. We weren’t getting stops.”
The Terrapins showed some improvement on the offensive end later in the half but had difficulty closing such a large gap, especially as they weren’t able to dial it up from three. Maryland missed 13 three-point attempts in the half.
Ayala, though, drained two consecutive threes to start the second period and Izzo would be forced into a timeout after the Terrapins’ defense saw his team go through four straight possessions without scoring. Maryland cut the deficit in half with a 10-0 run but the Spartans made two straight threes and Michigan would build up another 20-point lead just a few minutes later.
“We’ve been fighting all year,” Manning remarked. “That’s one thing we’re proud of as a staff. These guys have continued to show grit and determination.”
The home fans made it all the more difficult, as Russell admitted.
“I couldn’t even hear my teammates or my coaches talk,” he said. Trying to make adjustments while they’re on a run and you can’t hear anything, it’s difficult.”
They managed to put up another stretch that brought the scores to 61-58.
“We were right there,” Ayala added.
The Spartans responded with another run. Junior Malik Hall made a three-point play via a layup and the resulting shot from the stripe put Michigan State up by 13. Hall scored 17 points to lead the bench, with the Spartans getting 33 points from their reserves.
Maryland, on the other hand, only got six points from its bench.
The Terrapins secured a first-round bye in the Big Ten tourney before the games started as Penn State lost to Rutgers. The defeat meant they couldn’t finish worse than a tie for 10th in the conference, having won the three-way tiebreaker with Penn State and Northwestern.
They had, of course, been keen on a first-round bye but, having gotten that, they’re due for another meeting with Michigan State that could end their season should they leave the floor with a similar result.