EAST LANSING — Michigan State basketball turned a dogfight into a track meet in a hurry.
Already flexing their defense in a battle with Maryland, the Spartans found themselves trailing by a point with a little more than seven minutes to play. That’s when Malik Hall took over and MSU took control en route to a 63-54 victory Saturday.
Hall scored eight straight points after the Terrapins took the lead. His 3-pointer in that stretch sparked the Spartans’ 12-0 run that included a three-point play which was quickly followed by a steal and breakaway layup by A.J. Hoggard.
That 2-minute, 16-second spurt spun Breslin Center from a house of concern to a cauldron of noise. MSU closed the game on a 22-12 burst after Maryland’s lone lead of the game.
“This is helping us build the kind of experience that we need moving forward,” said Hall, who had 14 of his 19 points and five of his seven rebounds after halftime. “I mean, shoot, the (NCAA tournament) is really good. Like, you’re gonna bump into teams that just aren’t gonna give up, and it’s gonna be tough games the whole game. So just being able to fight your way through all the way to the end, that’s what you need as a Big Ten team. And I think we’re developing that more as we go on throughout this Big Ten season. It’s something that we definitely need for sure.
Tyson Walker also scored 19 points, while Hoggard had six points, eight assists and five rebounds.
After getting outrebounded badly in the first meeting against the Terps, the Spartans finished with a 36-30 edge on the glass Saturday and had a 30-18 scoring advantage in the paint. MSU turned 12 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points.
“I don’t care if you’re a coach, a player, a 97-year old mother — you couldn’t go through that game without being tired,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “It was a slugfest. … To win a game that way is not for the faint at heart. But it was probably good for my program moving forward on what I think we gotta do.”
The Spartans (14-8, 6-5 Big Ten) travel to Minnesota on Tuesday. Tipoff at Williams Arena is at 9 p.m., and the game will not be broadcast and only will be streamed on Peacock. The Gophers (14-7, 5-5) were overtime winners Saturday at home against Northwestern, 75-66.
“We got to bring our own energy to go play a team that’s playing really well, especially at home,” Walker said.
MSU’s defense stifled Maryland, which shot just 30.9% for the game and went 7-for-30 from 3-point range. Jahmir Young scored 19 of his 31 points in the second half, but he went just 9-for-22.
Donta Scott added 13 points but shot just 5-for-13, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. Scott and Young were a combined 7-for-24 from behind the arc, and MSU got forward Julian Reese (two points, two rebounds) in foul trouble all game for the Terrapins (13-9, 5-6).
Tyson Walker looks like Tyson Walker
Despite Izzo saying Thursday his senior star guard was battling a slight groin pull, Walker went on the offensive throughout the first half. He drained his first of two first-half 3-pointers a little more than 2½ minutes into the game, part of his 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
After getting outrebounded by 15 in their 61-59 road win at Maryland on Jan. 21, the Spartans attacked the glass early and often and had an 18-17 edge at halftime. MSU had seven second-chance points on five offensive boards, including a pair by Carson Cooper on back-to-back possessions that led to assists for the sophomore to Walker —first hitting him for a cutting layup, then kicking out off his own miss for another Walker 3. That put MSU up, 14-5, and forced Maryland coach Kevin Willard to burn a timeout with 13:46 to go in the half.
The Spartans had a chance to extend it but committed turnovers on three straight plays. Hoggard took a 5-second call on a baseline inbound pass, then sent a pass intended for Malik Hall soaring over his forward’s head for a turnover. After a Scott 3-pointer, Hall got tied up and turned it over again. MSU had seven first-half giveaways.
“That really ticked me off,” Izzo said of the lapses during that stretch.
The Terps got back in it behind Young, who also had 12 points in the first half but on just 4-for-13 shooting. He and Scott drained back 3s late in the half to pull within two with 50 seconds before intermission. Scott scored 11 by the break, including three 3-pointers.
But Hoggard drove deep into traffic and swished a runner to send MSU into halftime with a 31-27 lead.
The Spartans’ defense held Maryland to just 5-for-17 from 3-point range and 31.3% overall, forcing six Terps turnovers. The Spartans connected on 48.1% of their shots in the first half but only went 2-for-5 from deep while outscoring Maryland in the paint, 18-8.
Surviving the cold spell
Reese got in foul trouble in the first half, sitting the final 7:04 of the half after picking up his third. It took 8 seconds after the break for the 6-9 junior to go to the bench again with his fourth, an inadvertent elbow to Jaden Akins’ face on a screen.
It also set the tone for the rock fight to come, with the two teams making just four of 23 shots and missing all 11 of their 3-point attempts in the first 9 minutes after halftime.
Both teams’ defenses began to clamp down and take away driving lanes and clean looks from outside. Every time the Spartans appeared prepared to take flight, they would commit an egregious turnover — two uncharacteristically bad passes by Tre Holloman soared into the crowd, another by Hoggard missed Hall badly. But Maryland couldn’t capitalize either, even with Young beginning to assert himself on offense.
“I said it was a game that I wouldn’t want to officiate. I wouldn’t want to have been on the TV. … And in all honesty, I didn’t want to be me for a while,” Izzo joked. “I sat there and I said, ‘This sucks.’ But we did bounce back. We scored a lot more points.”
The shots Akins hit in a career performance Tuesday against Michigan weren’t falling, but his 3-pointer with 9:05 gave MSU a six-point lead. But Young, who scored 11 of the Terps’ first 15 points out of halftime, answered with a triple of his own. Then after a Scott layup, Young drove around Sissoko to give Maryland its only lead of the game, 42-41, with 7:15 left.
Sissoko atoned for it quickly, giving the Spartans the lead back on an alley-oop dunk off a Hoggard lob. That sparked the recovery run, with Hall scoring 12 points in the last 6:12. Maryland missed six of its final eight shots.
MSU has won five of its last six games, pulling away after halftime during four of those and surviving an early second-half swoon in the first win over Maryland.
“I don’t think we plan on making it a tight game and then going on a run. I think it kind of just happens,” Walker said. “We know we got to make winning plays. And so naturally, that just leads us to getting stops and winning.”
Subscribe to the “Spartan Speak” podcast for new episodes weekly on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. And catch all of our podcasts and daily voice briefing at freep.com/podcasts.
First appeared on www.freep.com