No. 23 Michigan State women's basketball, despite a valiant fourth quarter comeback, fell short Thursday night against offensive juggernaut No. 12 Maryland, 93-87.
Playing in front of their families at home for the first time all season, the Spartans came out with high energy early, specifically from sophomore center Taiyier Parks who crashed the glass, jumped for loose balls and had emphatic blocks early.
On the back of this energy, the Spartans got out to a quick four-point lead in the first quarter but wouldn’t find it again as Maryland’s offense found its groove. The Terrapins finished the first on an 8-2 run with Mimi Collins getting nine quick points in the first quarter.
However, it would be Maryland’s defensive effort that would propel them in the second quarter to gap the Spartans. The Terrapins’ length became a problem for the Spartans as they quickly shut passing lanes and closed in on shooters at the perimeter before they could gather for a shot. As a result, the Spartans only mustered 14 points in the second quarter paired with six turnovers as well.
Maryland turned their tremendous defensive effort into easy baskets on the other end of the floor, scoring nine points off of Spartan turnovers. Maryland, who leads the nation in scoring, got production from all of their major contributors to combine for 26 points in the second quarter to take a 15-point lead at halftime.
The Spartans wouldn’t back down in this one as their offense finally began to click in the third quarter. After a gritty drive from Tory Ozment and a quick three pointer and fastbreak layup from Nia Clouden all within fifty seconds of play, the Spartans suddenly found themselves within seven points with over six minutes to go in the third quarter.
However, the mountain to climb for Michigan State was too steep as Maryland took back over with a 7-0 run of their own. Diamond Miller, who had been silenced for a majority of the game, scored five of those seven points.
Michigan State continued to battle in the fourth and had an opportunity to cut the lead to five or six points before Ashley Owusu jumped into a passing lane to score an easy layup in transition to push the lead back to 10.
Then it was Alyza Winston, someone who Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant had been begging to shoot the ball more often, who scored five points to ignite a 9-0 run to cut into the lead.
Janai Crooms along with Winston’s great offensive play made key defensive plays after taking a big blow to the head on a rebound attempt, including a steal and an emphatic block to help assist the Spartans on the other end.
However, the 15-point lead that Maryland had built proved to be too much as the Terrapins closed out the game by sinking their free throws to keep the Spartans behind.
Clouden, despite the hard-fought loss had a historic night as she reached the 1000th point milestone for her career early in the third quarter. Against the team from her home state, she finished the night with 32 points and five assists.
Julia Ayrault, after sitting a large portion of the first half due to foul trouble, came on strong in the second half to help cut the Maryland lead down, scoring 17 along with a pair of blocks.
As a team, the Spartans shot 44.2% on the night, including 37% from beyond the arc despite shooting poorly from the three point line in the first half. Despite a barrage of turnovers in the first half, the Spartans only had 12 on the day along with 23 assists.
In limited minutes due to foul trouble, the post play from Parks and Alisia Smith had a nice night, combining for 19 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
The Terrapins would continue their historic year on offense as five of their eight players who saw the floor scored double digits, including 20 from Owusu and 13 from Collins.
The Spartans will look to get back to their winning ways against Nebraska at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
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