East Lansing, Mich. — The Maryland men’s basketball team’s first visit to the Breslin Center as a member of the Big Ten came five seasons ago, producing a grind-it-out overtime win that set the table for the Terps to be the league’s surprise team that year.
The last visit before Monday night didn’t go so well, a 30-point loss last season that was the most one-sided Big Ten defeat for one of coach Mark Turgeon’s teams. The much-anticipated rematch for No. 13 Maryland was not that awful, but not good either.
Except for a stretch in the first half when the young Terps erased an early 12-point deficit to tie the game at 20, Maryland didn’t seem quite ready for such a big — and boisterous — stage, losing to the No. 6 Spartans, 69-55.
The defeat, the first in nearly a month for the Terps, ended a seven-game winning streak for Maryland (16-4, 7-2) and prevented Turgeon’s team from taking sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
The victory was the 12th straight for Michigan State (17-2, 8-0), the last six coming without injured junior guard Joshua Langford, the team's third-leading scorer who hasn’t played since Dec. 29 because of a badly sprained ankle.
Senior forward Kenny Goins led the Spartans with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Though the Terps did a pretty good job in the first half on Cassius Winston, holding him to just five points on 2-for-7 shooting, the junior guard finished with 14 points to go along with seven assists.
Conversely, the Big Ten’s top defensive team locked down just about every Terp except for freshman guard Aaron Wiggins, who finished with a career-high 15 points, and sophomore center Bruno Fernando, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who averaged nearly 20 points during the winning streak, scored a season-low seven. The 55 points also tied a season low for the Terps, matching their total in a 55-41 win over Loyola Chicago on Dec. 8 in Baltimore.
Leading 31-20 at halftime after closing the half on an 11-0 run, Winston hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the streaking Spartans their biggest lead. It would only get worse for the Terps.
After a three-point play by Fernando cut Maryland’s deficit from to 15 to 12, the Terps had a chance to get closer after Winston rushed a 3-pointer. The next sequence summed up much of the game.
Freshman forward Jalen Smith was blocked going inside, knocked to the ground and was late getting back on defense, forcing his former Mount Saint Joseph teammate, sophomore guard Darryl Morsell, to stop the burly 6-foot-7 Goins inside. He couldn’t.
It was part of a 17-6 run to start the second half for the Spartans, who started the game racing to an early 18-6 lead. Two straight 3-pointers by Wiggins cut the deficit back to 16, but Goins answered with a jumper from the free-throw line.
In all, the Spartans scored on eight of their first 10 possessions of the second half and built their big lead despite junior center Nick Ward, their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, picking up his third foul early in the half and his fourth with a little over 13 minutes left.
Terps go cold
After one of its best shooting performances of the season in Friday night’s 75-61 win at Ohio State — shooting over 58.1 percent from the field and making 11 of 18 3-pointers — Maryland had one of its worst of the season.
Playing against the Big Ten’s best defensive team, the Terps shot 21-for-61 (34.4 percent) from the field, including 9-for-26 (34.6 percent) from 3-point range. The one exception was Wiggins, who hit five of nine 3-pointers, and at times, Fernando.
Cowan made his first shot early in the game on a layup, but didn’t hit another shot until nearly 10 minutes remained and finished 3-for-12 from the field, including 1-for-6 on 3-pointers. After averaging more than 14 points in the second half of the past four games, Cowan had just five after halftime.
Cowan wasn’t alone. Smith was just 3-for-8 and scored just six points. It was another game when the former McDonald’s All American looked a little overwhelmed, at least physically, against older, stronger defenders.
As much as the Terps seemed a bit overmatched at the beginning of each half, there were stretches in the first half when they clawed back to a tie at 20 and in the second half — when they seemed on the verge of an embarrassing blowout — that Maryland did some things Turgeon can build on before Saturday’s game against Illinois at Madison Square Garden.
MARYLAND: Fernando 4-8 4-6 12, J.Smith 3-8 0-0 6, Ayala 2-6 0-0 5, Cowan 3-12 0-1 7, Morsell 4-7 0-0 10, Lindo 0-4 0-0 0, Bender 0-0 0-0 0, S.Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Wiggins 5-13 0-0 15. Totals 21-61 4-7 55.
MICHIGAN ST.: Ward 0-3 0-0 0, Goins 6-12 0-0 14, Henry 6-7 0-1 12, Winston 5-13 3-5 14, McQuaid 4-10 0-1 10, Brown 1-2 0-0 3, Bingham 0-0 0-0 0, Kithier 2-2 0-0 4, Tillman 3-9 4-4 10, Loyer 0-0 0-0 0, Ahrens 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 28-61 7-11 69.
Halftime: Michigan St. 31-20. 3-Point Goals: Maryland 9-26 (Wiggins 5-9, Morsell 2-3, Ayala 1-3, Cowan 1-6, S.Smith 0-1, Lindo 0-1, Fernando 0-1, J.Smith 0-2), Michigan St. 6-26 (Goins 2-5, McQuaid 2-8, Brown 1-2, Winston 1-5, Henry 0-1, Ahrens 0-2, Tillman 0-3). Rebounds: Maryland 38 (Fernando 13), Michigan St. 36 (Goins 12). Assists: Maryland 17 (Cowan 5), Michigan St. 21 (Winston 7). Total Fouls: Maryland 14, Michigan St. 12. A: 14,797 (16,280).