With 5:30 left and Michigan State still within reach of a comeback, Maryland slowed the ball down and launched its half-court offensive set, with guard Hakim Hart dumping the ball to forward Donta Scott at the top of the key.
Scott worked his man down to the left post, just as he had on the previous possession for a score, but this time he kicked out the ball back up top to Hart, who sank a key three-point bucket to reclaim momentum.
Hart’s bucket came in the middle of a 14-4 Terrapin run that helped push the Maryland lead to a game-high 15 point en route to a 73-55 victory Sunday afternoon.
Maryland men’s basketball got out to a lead quickly, then used strong defense and consistent offense to repeatedly answer any bursts of momentum from Michigan State, never letting up throughout the contest.
“We made shots early,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “But our defense was shot out of a cannon at the start of the game and we were really good defensively probably for 36 minutes today.”
With the victory, the Terps defeat the Spartans at Xfinity Center for the first time since March 4, 2017. They also extend their current win streak to five games, with a NCAA Tournament berth now all but locked in.
After a long first possession that resulted in no basket, Maryland got back to the basics and forced a turnover that sparked 11-straight Terrapin points to start the contest.
The stifling Terrapin defense did not allow a single Spartan point until the 13:51 mark of the first half, the first time that Maryland had held an opponent scoreless through five minutes in the last two seasons.
“I think that set the tone for the game,” Morsell said of the strong start. “That’s the reason I play. I know what Michigan State [is] about, and I knew we had to come out here today with energy and we had to hit them first.”
Michigan State managed to break the ice with a layup and quick three on the next possession, bringing the score to 11-5 with 13:21 left in the half. But a Jairus Hamilton three-pointer and Eric Ayala converting three free throws helped spark the Terrapin offense, not letting the Spartans get any closer.
With 9:02 left in the half, Michigan State was rushing in transition, looking to regain momentum, when Gabe Brown broke toward the basket and ascended, but then kneed Reese Mona in the chest and plowed through him for an offensive foul.
Just a few possessions later, Eric Ayala converted his first three of the afternoon with 7:16 left in the half, becoming the fifth Terp to do so through just six team attempts. Michigan State opened the afternoon shooting just 2-for-11 from long-range in the same stretch.
Defense continued to pave the way for Maryland as the half started winding down, as Morsell poked a ball free during a Spartans fast break, immediately flipping the court and dropping off a pass to Ayala at the other end to give the Terps a 33-21 lead with four minutes left.
Maryland carried a 35-25 lead into the locker room on the back of an 11-of-25 shooting effort from the floor, including 6-of-10 from three, and seven points scored off of six Michigan State turnovers.
Ayala led all scorers in the first half with 10 points, while Morsell followed close behind with nine of his own. The Spartans had just five different scorers through 20 minutes, with Aaron Henry (9) and Joshua Langford (8) carrying the bulk of the work on offense.
The Spartans opened the second half with the ball, but a long possession ended with another missed three-point shot, which the Terps turned into points on the other end thanks to a Morsell cut to the basket.
“It’s something we talk about, but we made changes,” Turgeon said about the aggressiveness on offense. “This is a little bit harder to scout and it’s really opened the floor up… We’ve always talked about it, we’ve just gotten better at it.”
Maryland only let Michigan State as close as nine points in the early going of the half, getting its work done at the charity stripe. The Spartans racked up six fouls in just 4:52 of second half play, which put the Terps in the bonus after a 6-of-6 start to the half from the line and a 13-of-13 effort through that point.
Brown went on to sink his second three-point bucket of the game with 13:04 remaining, but a Morsell block of Henry on the next defensive possession led to a transition dunk for Hakim Hart as an immediate answer. Galin Smith got fouled on the next Maryland possession as well, increasing the lead back to 11 points.
Michigan State began a strong push down the stretch of the second half, using a 6-0 run on three consecutive possessions to get the Maryland lead down to five points.
However, a subsequent 14-4 Maryland run across nearly 6:06 worked to not only answer the Spartans’ effort, but three-point makes from Hart and Donta Scott worked as daggers, giving the Terps a 15-point lead heading into the final minutes.
Spartan Rocket Watts went on to miss a bucket in the paint with just over a minute to go, leading to Hart launching the ball forward to Wiggins for a 360-degree slam to put an exclamation point on the victory.
Ayala led the way for the Terps with 22 points as one of four players in double figures, followed by 13 points from Wiggins, 11 from Morsell and 10 from Hart. Scott had a team-high eight rebounds along with seven points and five assists.
“I feel like our confidence level is at an all-time high right now,” Hart said. “We just got to keep it that way.”
Three things to know
1. The win streak continues. Maryland has now won five straight games, continuing to turn around a rough start to Big Ten play. Michigan State had won three consecutive contests heading into Sunday’s matchup, including against the likes of No. 5 Illinois and No. 4 Ohio State, but the Terps stopped that run in its tracks.
2. Maryland impressed beyond the arc. The Terps made their first three three-point attempts to start the contest, and they continued to shoot daggers from there, ending the first half 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. On the opposite end, Michigan State shot just 4-of-15 from deep in the opening period.
The Terps continued to shoot lights the rest of the way, going 8-of-16 (50%) from deep, compared to just 8-of-28 (28.6%) for the Spartans. This marks the third time this season that Maryland has shot above .500 on three-pointers.
3. The Terps took advantage of its chances at the charity stripe. The Spartans committed 19 personal fouls Sunday afternoon, leading to plenty of opportunities for Maryland. The Terps got to the free-throw line, making 23-of-24 chances. This team has had an up and down showing from the charity stripe this season, including a 26-of-40 (65%) mark there in its last two contests. But the Terps weren’t letting any points go to waste against Michigan State.
“It was big, especially in games like these where a talented team like Michigan State could capitalize off our missed free throws,” Ayala said. “And we didn’t turn the ball over a lot… I think that’s the winning recipe, making free throws and not turning the ball over.”