It was sluggish, even ugly at times, but MSU men’s basketball team stepped up when it mattered most against Maryland on Saturday night to complete a season sweep over the Terrapins.
The Spartans rose above 12 turnovers, a 28% clip from three and subpar free-throw shooting to top Maryland 63-54 for their 13th victory at home this season. MSU, now 14-8 overall, is back above .500 in conference play ahead of arguably its schedule’s most manageable stretch.
Maryland shot an abysmal 30% from the field but was well within reach for most of the way, taking its first lead of the game late in the second half but ultimately falling victim to a second-half barrage from MSU’s Malik Hall.
Hall finished with 19 points, 14 of which came in the second half, and seven rebounds, pushing MSU over the edge when it needed him the most. Graduate guard Tyson Walker pitched in 19 points of his own.
It was Walker’s 33rd consecutive game in double figures, tying Kalin Lucas for the most in program history.
Maryland lead guard Jahmir Young, who scored a game-high 31 points and Donta Scott did the brunt of the work for Maryland, combining for 44 out of its 54 points. Forward Julian Reese was a non-factor as he dealt with foul trouble all night.
Maryland entered Saturday winners of two straight, having knocked off Iowa and Nebraska after a narrow, two-point home loss against MSU on Jan. 21. To emerge victorious from the Breslin Center, where the Spartans have lost just twice this season, Maryland needed the best form of its three-headed monster featuring Young, Scott and Reese.
Maryland didn’t lead once in the first half, but 12 points from Young and 11 from Scott kept the Terrapins in the game.
The Terrapins entered troubled waters almost immediately, as Reese sat down just over two minutes into the game after picking up two quick fouls. Maryland undoubtedly felt his absence on both ends, having to rely on sophomore Caelum Swanton-Rodger to man the middle.
MSU’s defense was active early, forcing four Maryland turnovers in the opening six minutes. However, as they have in a majority of their Big Ten games, the Spartans got beat up on the defensive glass, allowing eight offensive rebounds in the first half.
It took Young almost 10 minutes to hit his first shot, a three-pointer, followed by an easy score in transition to cut MSU’s lead to three. Then, after Maryland head coach Kevin Willard decided to put Reese back in the game, the junior forward was called for his third foul in 13 minutes and returned to the bench.
All but four of Maryland’s first half points came from Young and Scott — the two combined for five threes in that frame and 39 out of 40 minutes played. The Terrapins trailed by four going into the locker room for halftime.
Just eight seconds into the second half, Reese picked up his fourth foul on an illegal screen, derailing his night even further.
Both teams struggled to put points on the board, combining for just 11 points on 4-for-23 shooting through nine minutes of the second half. MSU went through a five-minute scoring drought but still clung to a narrow lead, trying to outlast Maryland as it did two weeks prior.
The Terrapins took their first lead of the game with just over seven minutes remaining on a reverse layup from Young, however, it lasted just 21 seconds and would be Maryland’s only advantage of the night. MSU punched back, embarking on a 10-0 scoring run spanning under a minute. Eight of the points were scored by Hall, the other two via a Hoggard fastbreak layup. In the blink of an eye, the Spartans had their first true cushion of the game.
Maryland couldn’t muster enough energy or momentum to make a dent in its double-digit deficit, and MSU survived the Terrapins for the second time this season.
Looking ahead, Michigan State’s next four contests, starting with a road matchup at Minnesota on Tuesday night, all feature opponents the Spartans have already faced this season. They’ll have the opportunity to gather momentum in February heading into March and the postseason.
MSU and Minnesota will tip-off in Minneapolis at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The game will be streamed on Peacock.
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