Maryland suffered their first loss of 2019 when they fell to Michigan State 69-55 on Monday night. The loss puts Maryland at 7-2 in the Big Ten and in third place in the conference. Here are my thoughts on the loss.
Sparty’s size bothered Terps
Coming into Monday’s contest, Michigan State was second in the country in rebound differential (+12.2), so we expected a ferocious battle inside. Michigan State jumped on the Terps early, getting out to an 18-6 lead largely because of six offensive rebounds in that stretch.
Michigan State has three post players (Nick Ward, Kenny Goins, and Xavier Tillman) who all have the strength to contain Bruno Fernando inside. As a result, Fernando faced less double teams, which prevented other Terps from getting open. Jalen Smith also struggled all night, scoring just six points on 3-8 shooting while looking overpowered at times.
Fortunately, the rest of the Big Ten does not have the size to guard Maryland like that. Michigan State outrebounded the Terps 40-38, the first team to do so all season. Overall, it was a bad matchup for the Terps.
Aaron Wiggins let it fly
The biggest positive from the loss was the play of freshman Aaron Wiggins. Coming off an 11-point outing against Ohio State, the sharpshooter knocked in five three pointers on his way to 15 points.
Wiggins was the second highest ranked recruit in the 2018 class, but has had an up and down start thus far. His clear biggest strength is his pure ability to shoot the ball. The Terps have sorely lacked three point shooting this season, but Wiggins has started to fill that void. He has now made eight threes in the last two games and his percentage is now north of 42 percent.
While Wiggins will continue to come off the bench, his shooting will allow him to play serious minutes and have one of the most important roles on the team.
Cowan struggled to find rhythm
Anthony Cowan came into tonight’s game on fire. The junior had scored 20 points or more in the four previous games, but he just couldn’t get it going tonight. After a 1-5 first half, Cowan finished 3-12 with a season-low seven points.
Every player has an off night, so there is no need to panic after Cowan’s performance tonight. He usually gets to the free throw line at a much higher rate (only one attempt against MSU), so expect him to attack the rim more going forward. He has been the leading scorer all season and I fully expect him to get back on track Saturday against Illinois.
Terps get burned in transition
With Cassius Winston at the point, the Spartans love to get out in transition, and Monday night they did just that. Michigan State outscored Maryland 29-9 in transition.
Michigan State is able to run so effectively because they dominate the glass. Their big men did a great job of getting the rebounds to the guards and sprinting down court. They had a couple of thunderous slams to show for it.
Transition defense has not really been an issue for the Terps all year, but Illinois (their next opponent) plays with the fastest pace in the Big Ten. Maryland better be ready to slow them down.
Is Michigan State a threat to win it all?
Coming into conference play, I was not a Sparty believer, but after an 8-0 start I have bought in. As I previously mentioned, they are the second best rebounding team in the country. Winston is the leading candidate for Big Ten player of the year and might be an All-American. They have perimeter shooting and big game experience as well. Their third leading scorer Joshua Langford did not even suit up Monday.
Michigan State has the best chance of any Big Ten team to win a national championship, but I am not sure they are on that level yet. Some Big Ten fans might not like that, but MSU already got smacked by Kansas this year. Teams like Duke, Virginia and Tennessee would have an edge over the Spartans, but I believe they are the Big Ten’s best.
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