Anthony Cowan Jr. pulled up as the shot clock dwindled, as he did so many times on the day, and calmly shot the dagger with 23 seconds remaining. A seven-point Michigan State lead with 3:08 remaining flipped on its head, as Maryland closed the game on a 14-0 run to win 67-60.
"I'm not thinking about the tournament," coach Tom Izzo said postgame. "I'm thinking about trying to win another game because we're finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win."
MSU (17-9, 9-6 Big Ten) got the start they wanted. Junior forward Xavier Tillman was the aggressor, scoring the Spartans’ first two in a 14-point first half and a team-high 18-point game. Then senior guard Cassius Winston hit his first attempt to give MSU a 5-0 lead.
Winston locked in. Tillman gave an emphatic fist pump. The post-GameDay gallery awakened.
Then Cowan Jr. began the reversal of the first half script, hitting two straight contested threes to give Maryland a 6-5 lead it wouldn’t relinquish until Winston hit a three of his own for a 54-51 lead. Five straight in-and-outs in a scoreless 3:33 plagued MSU’s chances of regaining the advantage in a half that saw the Terrapins lead by as much as 15.
Despite being outrebounded 22-13 in the opening 20 minutes, the Spartans went into the half only down single digits.
"In front of my team that stood for rebounding, it's embarrassing," Izzo said. "It's even more embarrassing when you lose (the rebound battle) by one, which means the second half you outrebounded them by a ton."
Sophomore forward Aaron Henry started the second half with a rare one-handed slam and incited MSU’s gradual latter half climb. Cowan Jr. came back to earth, starting 0-3 out of the locker room. MSU rode a quick 6-0 run off low-percentage Maryland shot selection to build a lead as large as 7.
Jalen Smith would continue to hit opportune shots, too, cutting the Spartans’ lead to 60-56 from the outside with three minutes to play. Tillman missed a wide open three on the other end, and Cowan Jr. hit another to cut it to one, and another to give Maryland a 62-60 lead.
"You've gotta do that as a coach," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon noted on the Terrapins' double-teaming of Winston. "Tillman took the wide open three and missed it and it was a little bit off. That's really when I decided..."
When MSU couldn’t provide an answer, Cowan Jr. did. When the Spartans forced Maryland to answer, Cowan Jr. continued. His three with 23 ticks to play provided Maryland the five-point cushion it would retain through the final seconds; Cowan Jr. finished with 24 points.
MSU will travel to Nebraska to take on the 13th-place Cornhuskers (7-18, 2-12 Big Ten) at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb 20.
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