If the Maryland Terrapins were going to pull off the upset against No. 1 Michigan State, they were going to have to get hot, and they would have to do it early.
And for the first 12 minutes of the game, the Terps did that. They matched every shot by Michigan State, and they even had the lead four times against a team that averages 88 points per game.
However, the Terps’ offense, and their hopes of an upset, quickly died.
The Spartans regained the lead and held it for the rest of the game, as they handed Maryland its first loss in more than month, 91-61.
Michigan State (15-1, 3-0) had four players finish in double figures. Sophomore Nick Ward, who has been hot since early December, continued that streak by leading the Spartans with 16 points. Freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore guard Miles Bridges each had 15 points, while sophomore guard Cassius Winston had 10 points.
Maryland (13-4, 2-2) had found ways to make its offense run without sophomore forward Justin Jackson and redshirt junior forward Ivan Bender, but their absence was felt against the much bigger and deeper Spartan team. Sophomores Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter finished the game with 26 and 16 points, respectively, but they didn’t receive much help from their teammates.
The rest of the Maryland team scored just 19 points and shot 27 percent from the field.
It also didn’t help that two of the Terps’ biggest contributors — senior center Michal Cekovsky and freshman forward Bruno Fernando — were in foul trouble all night. Fernando finished the game with four fouls, and Cekovsky fouled out and played just 11 minutes, leaving the Terps without an answer for Michigan State’s offensive barrage.
It seemed like an upset was possible in the early minutes of the game. Maryland started on a 5-0 run and had a 19-17 lead after a layup from Cekovsky. Huerter, who scored half of his total points in the first half, was a catalyst for the team, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to start the game.
But like the rest of Maryland’s offense, Huerter cooled off midway through the first half. The Spartans took back the lead with a layup from Ward, and a 15-0 run gave them a 44-29 lead at halftime.
Michigan State went on to show why it’s the No. 1 team in the country. The Spartans shot 57.1 percent in the second half and led by as many as 34.
Maryland, after shooting 46.4 percent in the first half, dropped to 28 percent in the second.
The loss drops Maryland to eighth in the Big Ten. While the Terps have fared well at home with a 10-1 record, they have struggled on the road, going 1-2 in games away from the Xfinity Center.
Maryland will be back home against Iowa on Jan. 7. Tipoff will be at 8 p.m.
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