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Slow starts, finishes vs. No. 6 Michigan State lead to Maryland's first loss in nearly a month

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 double overtime win over Michigan State in the first game for the Terps in their new league. It set the table for coach Mark Turgeon’s team to finishing a surprising second in the conference that year.

The previous trip before Monday night was a disaster, a 30-point demolition last season that was the most one-sided Big Ten defeat for one of Turgeon’s teams. It was part of a disappointing 19-13 season for the Terps, who missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years.

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The most recent trip produced more bad stretches than good.

Maryland didn’t seem quite ready for such a big — and boisterous — stage, losing to the No. 6 Spartans, 69-55. Hours after moving up six spots in the Associated Press Top 25, the No. 13 Terps saw their seven-game, nearly month-long winning streak end.

In a game of runs won decisively by Michigan State (17-2, 8-0), Maryland (16-4, 7-2) fell behind 18-6 early in the game, but briefly tied it at 20 before the Spartans scored the last 11 points of the first half and started the second half on a 17-6 run.

“We pride ourselves on finishing halves, and starting halves,” Turgeon said. “We didn’t start the first half, we didn’t finish it. We didn’t start the second half. So it’s three parts of the game that are pretty important and we didn't do any of them.”

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.

Calling his team’s offense “attrocious”, Turgeon said that his team’s transition defense was nearly as bad. The Spartans, who won their 12th straight game, scored 29 points on fastbreaks.

“Michigan State I thought was really good tonight. We let them do what they do well, which is run,” Turgeon said. “That’s a really good team, and they’ve been really dominant in this building, and they can really guard you.”

Said sophomore guard Darryl Morsell: “What they do, you can’t really practice that. They get out so quick. They got good athletes running the floor. They just executed well."

Trailing by 22, Maryland cut its deficit in half with 5:52 left but got no closer.

“The start of the second half was really frustrating. It was like we weren’t even out there, and they would get all the way to the rim,” Turgeon said. “Give them credit, they’re good in transition. We’ll learn from it and hopefully get better.”

Much as Maryland appeared in its previous Big Ten loss — a 62-60 defeat at Purdue on Dec. 6 — Turgeon said that his team, the fifth-youngest in college basketball and the youngest in the league, showed its inexperience in a raucous environment.

“Tonight’s the first night [since Purdue] that my team looked young,” Turgeon said. “We are young, and that’s the first night [in awhile] that we looked young, and Michigan State had a lot to do with it. They had some young guys out there, too.”

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Morsell doesn’t like to hear how young the Terps are compared with some of their opponents.

“I don’t like to make excuses for our team being young, because our young guys can play,” Morsell said. “They’re elite freshmen. Michigan State is a good team. They out-toughed us. They beat us in rebounds [40-38]. They destroyed us in fastbreak points. We just got to get back in the gym and work on our weaknesses."

This time, it had more to do with the opponent than the crowd.

“I think it’s who we played, to be quite honest with you,” Turgeon said. “It’s not like Michigan State was going to overlook us. … They were ready. … They’re older and physical, and it showed tonight.”

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 percent from the field and making 11 of 18 3-pointers — Maryland had one of its worst.

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 (4-for-8 overall).

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.

Good night for Wiggins, tough night for Jalen Smith

After breaking out a slump of seven straight games with single-figure point totals, when he averaged just under six points a game by scoring 11 against Ohio State, Wiggins went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. Aside from his career-high 15 points, he also had six rebounds, a steal and a block.

“I’m glad Aaron made some shots. He took some tough ones and made ’em,” Turgeon said. “Kind of opened things up for us, which was good.”

Despite his team’s loss, Wiggins said that he can take some positives out of his performance.

“Coming off a loss, it’s hard feelings, it’s tough,” Wiggins said. “At the same time, I had a really good shooting night against Ohio State as well. It’s just something I’ve got to continue to do, play with confidence.”

As he has on occasion this season, Smith seemed out of sync nearly from the start. The former Mount Saint Joseph star finished with six points on 3-for-8 shooting, and grabbed just three rebounds. Several times, he had rebounds knocked out of his hands, and on a couple of occasions, he was knocked to the ground.

“Stix [Smith’s nickname] just didn’t have a very good night,” Turgeon said. “Stix is a very good player. It’s an eye-opener for him, just how big and physical the elite teams are. He’ll learn from it. It just wasn’t his night and he really could never get into a flow."

Box score

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.

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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).

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