Michigan State basketball uses late surge to down Maryland

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Aleesa Luecker

Fresh off of his 700th career win, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo aimed for win 701 Saturday night against Maryland. Michigan State had taken the last five games against the Terrapins, including a nail-biting win at College Park two weeks prior. Making it six would be easier said than done, as Maryland was riding the wave of a 73-51 dismantling of Nebraska. MSU also had the unenviable task of containing star graduate guard Jahmir Young, who averages over 20 points per game. Saturday’s contest had the makings of a classic.

Tyson Walker had other plans, at least at first.

The senior guard led the way for the Spartans early, scoring eight points in the first six minutes. This impressive spell included an acrobatic lay-up, immediately followed by a corner three to make it a 14-5 lead for MSU early in the second half.

Then freshman forward Coen Carr threw down a massive dunk off an alley-oop pass from senior guard AJ Hoggard, which brought the Breslin Center crowd to its feet. Carr’s dunks have become such a signature part of MSU basketball this year, that it’s easy to forget he’s still just a freshman.

The only reason MSU didn’t run away with the game in the first half was that Maryland’s graduate forward Donta Scott put up a scoring run of his own. He was the only Maryland player to score a point through the first nine minutes of the game, while his teammates shot a combined 0-11 during that span.

After that, the floodgates were open and it became the close game we all expected it to be.

After starting cold, Young scored five quick points to cut the lead to three. He would finish the half with 12 points, all of which came in the final 11 minutes, while Scott ended with 11.

On the other side of the ball, Walker continued to put up points while MSU nursed a tight lead. He finished the half as the team’s leading scorer by a wide margin, tallying 12 points while no other Spartans had more than five.

After a three-point shot from Young went off the rim at the buzzer, MSU walked into the locker room with a precarious 31-27 lead. The Spartans had their work cut out for them if they were going to keep up with Maryland and preserve their advantage.

The second half couldn’t have been more different. A moving screen from senior forward Julian Reese hit junior guard Jaden Akins straight in the face, sending him to the floor and increasing the intensity from there. Over the first nine minutes of the half, both teams shot a combined 4-23 and scored only 11 points. Baskets were so hard to come by for both sides, it felt like a win whenever someone got one to fall.

The frustration was palpable on the Spartan side of the ball. Four turnovers in that same span drew groans from the crowd, each one more exasperated than the last. Despite the lead, it did not feel like MSU was in control of the game.

With just over seven minutes left, Young hit a lay-up to give Maryland its first lead of the night, only for Mady Sissoko to respond with a monster dunk, putting some life back into the Spartan crowd.

This seemed to do the trick for the Spartans. Malik Hall proceeded to go on a personal 8-0 run, capped off by a steal and breakaway lay-up by Hoggard which stretched the lead to nine. In a game where offense had been so stagnant, this felt like a mountain to climb for Maryland.

“We challenged [Hall] at halftime, and he responded,” Izzo said.

All of a sudden, MSU’s offense lit back up after being dormant for so long. The Spartans finally pulled away, eventually winning the game 63-54.

Though the score makes it look like a comfortable MSU victory, this game ended up being a tough, grind-it-out win for the Spartans. When the scoring dried up, MSU held it together on defense to keep Maryland at bay and preserve the lead, ending with an explosion of points right at the end.

“You couldn’t go through that game without being tired. It was a slugfest,” Izzo said.

Malik Hall couldn’t have agreed with Izzo more.

“Being able to fight your way through all the way to the end, that’s what you need as a Big Ten team.”

Walker and Hall ended the contest with 19 points each, capping off stellar performances.

Not to be forgotten is Young, who scored 31 points–over half of his team’s total score–in a valiant effort that came up short. Only one of his teammates, Scott, ended with double figures.

The Spartans will travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers on Tuesday at 6 pm.

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