Despite a stunning comeback in the final minutes, Maryland men’s basketball fell to Michigan State, 76-72, in the second round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday night, solidifying the program’s first losing season in 29 years.
From Maryland’s lack of interior presence to the Spartans’ sloppy play down the stretch, here are three takeaways from a wild game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Maryland’s lack of interior presence
Despite adding junior transfer Qudus Wahab and freshman Julian Reese (St. Frances) during the offseason, the Terps struggled establishing a consistent low-post presence throughout the season. It was evident against the Spartans, as both players combined for zero points on 0-for-5 shooting.
Reese once again was hampered by foul trouble, as he picked up three fouls in 14 minutes. Wahab, on the other hand, took only one shot attempt. Spartans forwards Marcus Bingham Jr. (nine points) and Julius Marble (eight points) were able to score easily against the Georgetown transfer.
To make matters worse, Maryland’s top rebounder was graduate transfer Fatts Russell, a 5-foot-9 guard who collected seven boards to go along with his 20 points and six assists. Meanwhile, the 6-9 Reese and 6-11 Wahab combined for five rebounds.
Even when Maryland made its comeback to cut the deficit to two points in the final 16 seconds, Wahab watched from the sideline as the Terps went with a smaller lineup of Russell, senior guard Eric Ayala, junior guard Hakim Hart, junior forward Donta Scott and graduate transfer guard Xavier Green.
Maryland took advantage of the Spartans’ sloppy play
The Spartans nearly handed Maryland the victory during the final seconds. After Hart put back a missed 3-pointer by Ayala with 22 seconds left to cut Michigan State’s lead to 74-70, Green stole the ensuing inbounds pass, which led to a layup by Ayala to make it a two-point game with 16 seconds left. Another Spartans turnover in the backcourt gave the ball right back to Maryland, but Russell missed the go-ahead 3-pointer with nine seconds left.
Michigan State played sloppy basketball down the stretch, committing 11 of its 16 turnovers in the second half. Maryland took advantage, scoring 24 points off turnovers to nearly complete a wild comeback.
The Spartans committed seven turnovers in the final 2:26, which coach Tom Izzo attributed to “bad coaching.”
“Even a player can’t do that, so I’ll take some blame for that and we’ll try to do a better job,” the Hall of Fame coach said.
Maryland’s thin bench strikes again
Maryland once again showed its lack of depth, as the Terps’ bench was outscored 26-9 on Thursday. Green made an impact by recording four steals and scoring five points during Maryland’s second-half surge, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Sophomore guard Ian Martinez, a Utah transfer, only scored four points while Reese spent the majority of the game on the bench because of foul trouble.
The Terps relied heavily on Russell, Ayala (17 points), Scott (15 points) and Hart (11 points), who each played nearly 40 minutes. This season, those four players made up more than 70% of the Terps’ offensive production while playing more than 30 minutes a game.
“We just didn’t want it to be our last game with each other,” said Russell, whose college career ends with more than 2,000 points, 500 assists and 250 steals.