INDIANAPOLIS – Michigan State Basketball The Big Ten tournament matinee with Maryland couldn’t have started better. And it couldn’t have got any worse when the pipes started booming.
The Spartans’ early 12-point lead turned at halftime when the Terrapins drew foul after foul, broke off at the free-throw line and overtook the lead before half-time. Maryland pulled back to a 68:57 win on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That might have ended the course of the conference tournament, but it only adds to the wait for the Spartans (15-12). They will stay in Indy during Sunday’s selection show to see if Tom Izzo’s streak expands to 23 consecutive NCAA tournament spots. Most bracket projectors had MSU in the field independent of what happened in the league tournament based on three top 5 wins against Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State in the last three weeks of the regular season.
Malk Hall’s 19 points led the MSU. He scored 10 points in a row for the Spartans in the second half after the Terrapins built a 19 lead. Indianapolis-born Aaron Henry finished the race with 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists, but made six of the Spartans’ 18 sales and only took 5 of 12 shots.
Maryland (16-12) will play Michigan No. 4 in the quarterfinals on Friday at 11:30 am. Eric Ayala led the Terps with 21 points and made 10 of 11 free throws. Maryland was 20 for 28 on the line. Aaron Wiggins scored 19.
MSU shot 37.9% for the game but only made 4 out of 28 shots after a hot shooting start. The Spartans committed 24 fouls while the Terrapins committed 20. Izzo and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon each got a technical argument with the office in a game that had been plagued by incessant interruptions in the last 30 minutes of the game.
It is the first time since 2010 that Izzo has lost his first game in the Big Ten tournament, and only the fourth time since the tournament began in 1998.
Hot start is bad
MSU got off to as good a start as possible, especially after giving up the first 11 points on the first meeting between these two teams – a 73-55 Maryland win on February 28 at College Park.
Back-to-back 3 points from Rocket Watts and Hall and a dunk and put-back from Marcus Bingham Jr. forced Terps coach Mark Turgeon to only score a 6:11 timeout in the first half. The lead of the Spartans increased to 12 points in the layups of Joshua Langford and Joey Hauser.
MSU looked sharp offensively, making 10 of their first 15 shots and suppressing Maryland defensively.
Then the pipes started. And didn’t stop.
The terps continued and the referees kept calling fouls. Eric Ayala scored eight of his eleven points during an 18-4 rally with free throws, two of which came from Izzo’s engineering team at 4:18 after a call to Jack Hoiberg. The record at this point: 12 MSU fouls, five against Maryland.
In the first encounter, the Terps had 19 Spartan fouls with 23 of 24, while Ayala went with 13 against 13. The 6-foot-5 junior guard was on the strip 8 of 8 for the first half of Thursday, and his 3-pointer after the time ran out sent the terps to the locker room, 34-30.
Despite only 7 of 22 shots, Maryland had 15 of 16 free throws in the first half. Five of the eight free-throw attempts by the MSU in the first half took place in the final with a score of 2:55.
When Maryland broke off at the free throw line, the Spartans’ range of shots began to dwindle as the Terrapins built their defenses.
MSU only made 1 of 9 shots in the final 10:21 before the break. That carried over to the second half, and the Spartans had almost 12 minutes of play without a field goal between Henry’s 3-pointer at 5:40 in the first half and AJ Hoggard’s catch-up with 13:43 in the first half game.
After missing just five of their first 15 shots, the MSU got into a prolonged drought that coincided with the nasty problems.
The Terrapins, who didn’t exactly burn the nets themselves, advanced 18 points, including consecutive three-point games in an 8-0 run in the middle of the second half that the Spartans never recovered from.