Over two months into the 2023-2024 college basketball season, Michigan State finally picked up a road win to hang its hat on. It wasn't trending in that direction, though. Down three points with eight minutes remaining at Maryland on Sunday afternoon, it appeared the Spartans would once again squander a golden opportunity on the road just over a week after the team blew a late lead to No. 14 Illinois.
After MSU dominated the first 17 minutes of play, the Terrapins erased a 15-point deficit, storming back to nab a 53-50 lead and flipping the game's momentum upside down.
"We played probably one of our best halves of basketball both offensively and defensively," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said following the win. "In the second half, I thought they turned up their defense and they really gave us some fits. We did not handle it very well."
But, MSU remained collected on both ends until the final whistle, something this team has begun to show with more frequency, and ground its way to a two-point win.
MSU's defense stepped up, holding Maryland to just six points in the final eight minutes. It was a stretch the Spartans needed, having entered College Park winless in games outside the state of Michigan this season. With no shortage of trial and error, Michigan State executed when it mattered.
Spartan guards Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard were the catalysts in MSU's response and got the last laugh against Maryland, led by the talented Jahmir Young. Hoggard silenced the Terrapins' big run with two straight buckets to put the Spartans back up by a point.
Then, with inside of a minute to play, Walker buried the biggest shot of the night — a contested, pull-up three from the left wing to put MSU up four with 44 seconds to play.
Still, the Terrapins clawed until the end. They had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds, but a strip of Young’s handle by MSU guard Tre Holloman as the buzzer sounded proved to be MSU's final defensive stand in the team's first true road win of the season.
"All in all, I wouldn't be normally satisfied except right now, we needed a road win," Izzo said. "Being in it 39 years, you kind of realize that [an] ugly win is much better than a pretty loss."
Offensively, the Spartans struggled to create half-court offense for a majority of the contest; their commanding first-half lead came by way of terrific transition offense. Whether it was a Maryland turnover or a made shot, MSU pushed the tempo to generate strong looks.
Malik Hall was MSU's main man early on, scoring nine of his 12 points in the opening ten minutes. On the other end of the game, Walker and Hoggard closed it out, accounting for MSU's final 11 points. Looking at this, it's encouraging for a team that needs the best out of both in crunch time.
Walker finished with 15 points and Hoggard added 12. Holloman also turned in a notable performance, tallying an efficient 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting and poking the ball away from Young to seal the game.
Now back to .500 in Big Ten play, the Spartans will battle Wisconsin on the road with a chance to increase their winning streak to four games.
Michigan State and Wisconsin will duke it out on Friday, Jan. 26, at the Kohl Center in Madison. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
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