Four takeaways from No. 6 men's basketball's win over Maryland
The No. 6 men’s basketball team has been proficient in many areas this season. Playing up to their full potential on the road, however, hasn’t been one of them.
Out of the 20 games the team has played, only four of them have taken place in an opposing team’s gym. The Spartans were blown out in Columbus by the Buckeyes, committed a season-high 25 turnovers at Illinois and shot a season-low 38 percent in their 10-point win at Rutgers.
An early afternoon game in Maryland against a desperate Terrapins squad trying to solidify their spot in the NCAA tournament was an opportunity for the Spartans to pass a well-needed road test.
The Spartans did exactly that, coming back from a 13-point halftime deficit to take down the Terrapins and win their fourth true road game this season.
Here are some takeaways from No. 6 MSU’s win over Maryland:
Tale of two halves
A lot went wrong for the Spartans early on as they had arguably their worst start to a game this season. MSU clanked eight out of its first nine attempts from 3-point territory, and missed nine out of their first 10 overall shots.
Contrastingly, Maryland rattled off the first eight points of the game and connected on seven of its first 12 attempts, allowing the team to open up a lead as big as 13 points on the Spartans.
The lackluster start could have spelled doom for an MSU team that has had its struggles on the road, but the team was able to reverse its fortune thanks to a early second half scoring spurt.
A quick 11-2 run after the break helped the Spartans cut the Terrapins 13-point halftime lead down to 39-35, and a few minutes later, redshirt junior forward Kenny Goins tipped it in off of a missed 3-pointer by sophomore guard Cassius Winston and gave the team its first lead of the game. The score by Goins capped off an 18-4 run by MSU.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story
MSU’s well-balanced starting lineup had a less-than-stellar performance just by looking at the final box score.
Second-year forwards Nick Ward and Miles Bridges scored a combined 18 points on 20 shots, and backcourt mates Winston and sophomore guard Joshua Langford combined to go 9-for-23 from the floor.
But the sophomores’ subpar shooting totals don’t give their performances justice, as they either contributed mightily in other aspects or made plays in key moments of the game.
Bridges' shot didn’t fall at its usual rate against Maryland as he was just 3-of-13 from the floor, and Ward was swarmed by two defenders every time he received a post touch, but the Preseason All-Big Ten team members grabbed a combined 22 rebounds.
A near 30-foot 3-point shot by Winston over the outstretched hand of a Maryland defender late in the second half gave MSU its largest lead of the game of eight points, and completed a 21-point turnaround for the team.
Langford single-handedly ignited the Spartans' comeback early in the second half by connecting on a reverse layup coming from the baseline, and knocked down a turn around catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper coming off of a pin down.
Overcoming road adversity
One would have thought Maryland was among the class of the conference by the way the team was playing in the first half, suffocating the Spartans on defense and scoring efficiently on the other end. But in the two teams’ first meeting at the Breslin, MSU won by 30 points.
Tightly-contested games away from home could be a sign of things to come for the Spartans, who hold the second-best national ranking of all teams in Big Ten except for No. 3 Purdue, which puts a target on their back for conference opponents looking to get a noteworthy win as post-season play approaches.
Three of MSU’s five remaining road games are against teams without a top-25 win, so the Spartans should expect a similar type of effort in future contests.
Izzo sticks to the script on ESPN report
In his postgame press conference, head coach Tom Izzo chose to go the same route he went after the Wisconsin win on Friday when asked about reported assault allegations involving former players that allegedly went unpunished, according to an investigative report from "Outside The Lines."
When OTL investigative reporter Tisha Thompson asked Izzo about the incidents in the report, without divulging any information, Izzo repeatedly responded by saying he has “cooperated with every investigation” and will continue to do so going forward.
According to the same OTL report that detailed 16 MSU football players being accused of sexual assault or violence against women since 2007, former player and assistant coach Travis Walton was allowed to continue coaching after being charged with assault in 2010.