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Preview: MSU basketball hosts Maryland on Senior Night

March 6, 2022
<p>MSU forward Malik Hall, 25, takes a shot in the Big Ten basketball tournament during a game against Maryland on March 11, 2020.</p>

MSU forward Malik Hall, 25, takes a shot in the Big Ten basketball tournament during a game against Maryland on March 11, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

After consecutive losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Michigan State men's basketball returns home to host Maryland in the final regular-season game of the year.

Michigan State narrowly defeated Maryland in the first matchup on Feb. 1 in College Park. The Spartans were led by junior forward Malik Hall and redshirt senior forward Joey Hauser in that matchup to escape with MSU’s final road win of the season. The Spartans have been 0-5 on the road since.

The wheels have started to fall off for the Spartans, who have now lost seven of the last nine games dating back to Feb. 5, including the two losses this week. The latest was a wire-to-wire defeat to Ohio State, who had no troubles against MSU’s defense. The losses have sent MSU tumbling in the Big Ten standings and Bracketology and now they are hanging on in the NCAA tournament by the skin of their teeth. 

The biggest problem in the losses has been the loss of MSU’s identity over the past month. MSU has struggled to generate transition offense and its best shooters have been stuck in a slump a majority of the time. Defensively, MSU has failed to slow Michigan or Ohio State down so far this week. The interior defense has been the biggest concern, giving up a combined 51 points to Michigan sophomore center Hunter Dickinson and Ohio State graduate center Joey Brunk the last two games.

“It's been a tough couple of weeks in a lot of ways and I did not like or enjoy or respect the way my players or the coaches handled the situation,” MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo said. “I told you all along, we're not a great team. I don't know if there are many great teams, or a good enough teams — a performance like that is unacceptable.”

The Spartans have a chance to bounce back and finish the regular season on a high note Sunday against Maryland. It is MSU’s final home game of the season and will have senior day festivities to honor MSU’s four seniors: forward Gabe Brown, center Marcus Bingham Jr., forward Joey Hauser and graduate student forward Michael Peterson.

For Brown and Bingham, they have been through thick and thin together in their four years at MSU. They came in together and joined MSU in the middle of its three-year Big Ten regular-season title run then had to push through the up-and-down COVID-19 season last year. Now, the duo is the face of the team trying to keep its head above water.

“I thank all my teammates, all the people I've met along the way because they met my expectations and more,” Brown said about his final game at Breslin. “I mean, as a kid coming from where I'm from, not a lot of people get to do this so I'm just blessed to be in this situation.”

Hauser and Peterson both transferred to Michigan State in search of different things. Hauser transferred from Marquette in search of a bigger stage and has become an integral part of MSU on both ends of the floor with his normally-consistent play. Peterson joined this offseason as a graduate transfer from Ferris State after growing up as an MSU fan. Peterson has played sparingly this year but acts as the team’s hype man during games and is well-liked by teammates.

Michigan State can also reach 20 wins on Sunday which would mark the 22nd time MSU won 20 games in a season under Izzo in 27 years.

Scouting the Opponent

Maryland comes into the final game of the regular season with a 15-15 record and 7-12 record in Big Ten play. The Terrapins have won two straight though, including a 15-point victory over the Ohio State team that just handled MSU. 

Maryland is powered by its three-headed attack of graduate student guard Daron "Fatts" Russell, junior forward Donta Scott and senior guard Eric Ayala, who combine to average 41.8 points per game. The trio led the way in the first matchup against MSU but could not hit enough shots down the stretch to complete the comeback.

“Right now, Fatts Russell has been on a tear — might be the hottest player in the Big Ten,” Izzo said. “He's scoring 21 a game, getting 17 or 18 shots. Donta Scott has always been a problem for us and is playing pretty well for them. Ayala is also very good and (junior guard Hakim) Hart is playing a lot better.”

The Terrapins are firmly outside of the NCAA tournament field and will need a Cinderella run next week at the Big Ten tournament to join the field. Maryland currently sits in 10th in the conference standings, meaning that MSU and Maryland could play against each other again on Thursday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, as MSU is currently seventh.

The first of the potential back-to-back matchups between MSU and Maryland will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the Breslin Center. The game will be televised on CBS.

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