INDIANAPOLIS- No. 8 seed Michigan State (20-11, 9-10 Big Ten) was unable to recover from a second half slump and fell 71-55 to top seed Maryland (27-3,16-3 Big Ten) in the quarterfinals.
“I thought it was a hard fought win for us over a really good Michigan State team,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought they came out ready to play.”
The Spartan defense kept up with the Terps’ fast paced offense in the first half but were unable to find a rhythm until late in the second quarter. The MSU defense forced ten turnovers to converted 11 points off of them.
“I thought they definitely had more edge to them.” MSU coach Merchant said about the competitiveness the Terps showed in the quarterfinals. “I definitely thought they were consistent in the way they attacked us. It just seemed like there were times where we fought back so hard, I loved our fight… and then they kind of just got away from us in a lot of late clock situations.”
MSU finished strong ending the last 3:21 on a 12-1 run, but were down four at the half, 35-31.
The Spartans shot 33.3 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from three point range and 60 percent from the line. Senior center Jenna Allen led with 13 points and four rebounds followed by eight points from redshirt junior guard Shay Colley.
Maryland shot 44.4 percent from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc and 72.7 percent from the line. Led by junior forward Stephanie Jones’ ten points and nine rebounds and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Taylor Mikesell’s eight points, six of which were from beyond the arc.
“Going into the game we knew that [Allen] being the senior leader was a big part of their team and was giving them energy.” Jones said. “We knew that if we kept her out of the game, kept her out of her rhythm off, then they would be off too.”
The Terps countered the 2:49 drought of the second quarter with a 11-0 run over a span of 3:51 in the third quarter. MSU was unable to counter the strong Terps offense and were out scored 25 to 10 in the third quarter, making 13 percent of the field goals taken in the quarter.
Third quarter slumps are not something new with MSU, something they have struggled with over the season.
“Some of it is just leadership and toughness that I think we just have to collectively click.” Merchant said. “What’s hurt us sometimes with the inconsistency, night in and night out from the offensive end which then obviously for my team will sometimes affect our ability to defend.”
The Spartans were unable to recover which lead to their demise. MSU finished shooting 29 percent from the field, 22.2 perecent from three point range and 68.2 percent from the line. Allen led with 19 points and five rebounds, followed by Colley and Clouden’s contribution of 12 points each.
“I thought my teammates did a good job giving me the ball in the first half.” (2:03) Allen said about the Spartans losing effort. “I honestly felt like our defense in the third quarter… really struggled.” (2:15)
Maryland shot 52 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from beyond the arc and 63.6 percent from the line. Junior guard Kaila Charles led with 21 points and ten rebounds, followed by Jones’ 14 points and 11 boards.
The Spartans will now await for tournament selection, whether it be the NCAA or the WNIT, MSU will have at least one more game.