Bubble battle: Maryland stifles Michigan State, dents Spartans' NCAA Tournament hopes with fifth straight win
In Sunday’s battle of surging bubble teams, Maryland put the defensive clamps on Michigan State in a 73-55 win for the Terrapins.
Both teams entered the contest riding winning streaks and looking to build their respective cases for the NCAA Tournament. Though both teams were in the field on the latest Bracketology predictions of CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm (Maryland as a 9-seed, Michigan State as an 11-seed), a bad loss late in the season can change that in a heartbeat.
It did not take long for Maryland to take control of the game in the first half with the Terrapins building a 10-point lead at the break. The Spartans appeared to be battling fatigue after back-to-back hard-fought games against top 10 teams in Illinois and Ohio State, though Tom Izzo’s squad tried to rally after halftime.
Michigan State cut Maryland’s second-half lead to seven points on a Joshua Langford layup with 7:56 to go. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Maryland always had an answer, pushing the lead to 18 points at the end of the game.
The key all game long was the defensive presence of the Terrapins. They held Michigan State to 33.3% shooting from the floor and a miserable 8-for-28 from three-point range. Langford and Aaron Henry combined to shoot just 7-for-29 for the Spartans.
Offensively, Maryland was led by Eric Ayala who poured in a game-high 22 points while shooting 13-for-13 from the free-throw line. As a team, the Terrapins shot 23-for-24 from the charity stripe and 8-for-16 from deep.
With remaining games against Northwestern and Penn State, Maryland should be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament. Another win or two in the B1G Tournament would only solidify that.
For Michigan State, things get a bit dicier with the Spartans still squarely on the bubble. The Spartans have remaining games against Indiana and two against Michigan with those games carrying increased urgency with the loss to Maryland.
A win against Indiana and grabbing one win against Michigan would likely put the Spartans squarely in the tournament. A loss to the Hoosiers or getting swept by the Wolverines would likely mean Izzo and company would need multiple statement wins in the B1G Tournament to stay alive.