Michigan State struggled to overcome a bad six minutes Sunday afternoon.
The Spartans never led at Maryland, falling behind 11-0 early and hardly ever threatened the efficient Terrapins.
"That was the game right there, to me," junior captain Aaron Henry said. "They came out and hit shots early. They were ready to play."
It was a frustrating loss because MSU lost a winnable game and blew an opportunity to lock up an NCAA tournament spot. It also reminded fans the Spartans aren't in a position to make a late-season run in March.
Before beating Indiana, Michigan State seemed lost offensively, so shooting 33% overall, taking 28 three-pointers, many ill-advised, and missing free-throws wasn't surprising.
Due to Maryland's size/length and its commitment to getting back on defense, the Spartan offense stalled out – unable to run in transition or attack inside.
Somehow, MSU fared better against Indiana, Ohio State, and Illinois, three teams with dominant big men, and afterward, it's easy to see why.
Maryland's focus wasn't in the paint; they bum-rushed the perimeter and did so consistently (33% of their attempts were from beyond the arc).
It neutralized Michigan State's big men, hence why Tom Izzo didn't utilize Marcus Bingham Jr., Mady Sissoko, or Julius Marble (though he mentioned fatigue setting in for Marble).
The Spartans small-ball lineup turned the season around, but Henry, Joshua Langford, Rocket Watts, and Gabe Brown shot a combined 11-for-41. That won't cut it against Indiana or Michigan.
And before you ask, yes fatigue was a factor, but it's not an excuse.
"I'm disappointed ... that team gets seven days off and we get these games the way we've had," said Izzo.
However, the season isn't over, not by a long shot, but a Tuesday night matchup vs. IU just became significantly more important. The Spartans can't rely on sweeping their rival, they may want to, but it's not reality.
At this point, the simplest path to the big dance is defeating Indiana and winning one or two games in the Big Ten Tournament.
"I'm certainly not going to dwell on it," said Henry. "We lost; it is what it is; we have to fight Tuesday."
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