EAST LANSING, Mich. — Trailing 15-0 in the opening minutes, Maryland men’s basketball looked to be out of its matchup against Michigan State before it could truly begin.
But after watching shot after shot bounce off the rim in the first half, the Terps started doing what they do best — scoring in the paint. Fueled by an aggressive offense, Maryland took a 48-44 lead with 9:15 to go, suddenly putting a fifth straight victory back within reach.
Yet for all that hard work climbing out of such a big early hole — and erasing a 12-point deficit in the second half — the final minutes Tuesday night inside the Breslin Center came down to 3-point shooting. Advantage, Spartans.
Michigan State hit three 3-pointers in the final nine minutes, while Maryland finished 3-for-22 from beyond the arc in a 63-58 loss, dropping the Terps to 1-6 on the road against Big Ten opponents this season.
Just when it appeared the Terps were going to complete their biggest comeback victory since 2020, Michigan State guards Jaden Akins and Tyson Walker (17 points) hit back-to-back 3s to give Michigan State a 52-48 lead. When forward Joey Hauser hit a 3 from the corner with 4:33 left, the Spartans led 57-52.
“I thought our defensive effort was good all night, [but] I thought we did some stupid things,” Terps coach Kevin Willard said. “We left Hauser [wide open]. All three of his [3-pointers] were blown assignments.”
While Maryland continued a season-long struggle with outside shooting, Michigan State finished 9-for-20 from 3-point range.
The Terps (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten) managed to cut the deficit to 59-56 on a wide-open dunk by senior guard Hakim Hart with 1:44 left, but graduate transfer guard Jahmir Young (17 points, six assists) missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 1:06 to go.
Maryland still had a chance to win in the final minute. After a second straight missed layup by Walker, the Spartans intentionally fouled Terps sophomore forward Julian Reese, who entered Tuesday shooting 51% from the free-throw line. Reese hit the first attempt but missed the second, and Akins corralled the rebound. The Terps forced Michigan State to use a timeout to avoid a five-second violation on an attempted inbound pass, but forward Malik Hall eventually got the ball in to guard A.J. Hoggard, who hit both free throws to give the Spartans a 61-57 lead.
“[There was] a lot of miscommunication [and] not enough pressure on the ball,” Maryland senior forward Donta Scott said on the Terps’ performance in the closing minutes.
Reese finished with 11 points and five rebounds and Scott added 10 points for Maryland, which shot 39.2% from the field, including 8-for-26 in the first half, but outscored Michigan State 30-14 in the paint. Hart put together a solid all-around game, recording 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The fact that Maryland even had a chance to win late was remarkable considering how poorly it started. Hauser hit a jumper while drawing a foul before Walker buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Spartans a 6-0 lead. Scott went to the bench after earning two quick fouls, and a 3 by Hoggard and a layup by center Mady Sissoko pushed the advantage to 15-0 as Michigan State started 5-for-6 from the field.
Maryland’s defense prevented the first half from turning into a disaster. The Terps held the Spartans scoreless for 4:33 while going on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to nine. Even after Michigan State (15-9, 7-6 Big Ten) ended the run with a 3 from Hall, Maryland managed to stay alive.
Young scored five unanswered points to cut the deficit to 21-13 with 8:57 left in the half despite the Terps shooting less than 30% from the field and 1-for-7 from the 3-point line. Maryland cut Michigan’s State lead to five with four minutes left before Hauser, who scored 11 points of his 20 points in the first half, buried his second 3-pointer to push the lead to eight.
“It’s a long game,” Young said. “I feel like our team can compete with anybody, and we’re going to find a way back in any game. But we can’t put ourselves in a hole like that and expect to win.”
After the Terps started 1-for-10 from deep, Scott hit a 3-pointer with 1:41 left to cut the deficit to 31-22 entering halftime.
“I also thought we took four really bad shots in transition,” Willard said. “We took four quick [3-pointers] that led to some of their early buckets. That’s something we haven’t been doing but being on the road in a good environment, you kind of get sucked into that.”
The Terps carried their outside shooting struggles into the locker room, as they opened the second half 0-for-4 while falling behind 38-26. It wasn’t until Maryland started attacking the rim that it started making a comeback. Hart fed Young on a backdoor cut before the Charlotte transfer converted a layup and drew a foul. Moments later, Hart was fouled while converting a fast-break layup before Scott threw down a two-handed dunk to cut the deficit to four.
“We were able to get a couple of turnovers and get out in transition to get a couple of easy [baskets],” Young said. “That really got us momentum just going inside.”
With 13 minutes left, the Terps finally broke through. Hart nailed a game-tying 3-pointer before graduate transfer forward Patrick Emilien (six points, six rebounds) hit a pair of free throws to give Maryland its first lead, 40-38.
The Terps stretched the advantage to 48-44 only to run out of gas down the stretch and miss out on a crucial chance for an elusive conference road victory.
“I felt like later in the second half when we were a little fatigued. They would get a couple of easy [3-pointers] or get to the rim,” Young said. “We have to do a better job at staying solid in those situations.”
The Terps entered Tuesday in a six-way tie for third place in the Big Ten, a good spot considering they were picked 10th in the league’s preseason media poll. Although it fell to eighth with a loss, Maryland still has a chance to finish fourth and earn a double-bye in next month’s conference tournament. Outside of top-ranked Purdue (22-2, 11-2 Big Ten), the league is pretty much wide-open, with six teams holding exactly seven conference wins entering Wednesday.
Maryland’s upcoming schedule should provide optimism that the team can finish at least fourth in the conference; five of the Terps’ final seven games are against teams ranked below No. 50 in efficiency, according to KenPom.
“What’s unique about this league is that it’s very hard to win on the road,” Willard said, as eight teams in the Big Ten have two or fewer road wins. “So to be in the position we are at [with] seven games left, I think we are in a great position.”
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