The Big Ten Championship, 7 p.m., on ESPN – it was the biggest stage Michigan State women’s basketball has been on all year – and the Spartans fell off that stage, 60-44 to Maryland.
“Well, we didn’t play well at all,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “We were battling the first half and just really came unraveled in the second [half]. They out-hustled us and out-worked us in the second half, give them credit.”
Aerial Powers, a Wooden Award top 15 finalist, did not score in the first half, going 0-for-3 from the field. Branndais Agee, the team’s third leading scorer, shot six 3-pointers in the first half, missing all of them.
“I wouldn’t say they took me out of things,” Powers said. “I just had a bad night, I guess.”
Other than Tori Jankoska’s 10 points, four Spartans had four points in the half – Jasmine Hines, Morgan Green, Jenna Allen, and Akyah Taylor.
Maryland had its struggles on offense too, only having one player in double figures, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
Michigan State had the 26-24 lead at halftime, but there were some signs of possible collapse.
- MSU did not get to the free throw line once in 20 minutes. Maryland, in comparison, got to the line eight times.
- The Spartans, who out-rebounded their first two opponents 87-64, were down 23-22 in that category.
- MSU was 2-for-10 from behind the arc, with both threes coming from Jankoska.
Halftime Box Score:
Starting the second half, Jankoska seemed to force up a 3-pointer and missed.
Jankoska was cold. Powers was cold. MSU had no answer for the Terrapins’ comeback.
Roughly halfway through the third quarter, Powers had a noticeable rough patch with turnovers, forced shots, and mental mistakes. She was visibly frustrated after almost every error by herself or the team.
Powers was held scoreless until the 2:43 mark in the third quarter. Then she hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers near the free throw line, cutting the Maryland lead to four.
This, however, was the last glimpse of hope for Michigan State.
“I would definitely not say they overpowered us,” Jankoska said. “We just kind of didn’t fight.”
Maryland’s first possession of the fourth quarter resulted in a Brene Moseley 3-pointer, pushing their lead to 45-36.
That 3-pointer put MSU out of its misery. They stumbled to get anything going offensively and Maryland capitalized.
“Just the second half, we stopped playing and stopped competing,” Merchant said. “As soon as a couple shots didn’t fall and we traveled here or there and we had turnovers that were ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.”
With one last all-out effort early in the fourth quarter, Agee yelled “Let’s go!”, got a steal, and was fouled attempting a pull-up jumper. She made both free throws, but it was too little, too late.
The Maryland Terrapins finished a relatively stress-free fourth quarter and cruised to their second B1G Championship in a row.
Michigan State and Maryland will await NCAA Tournament seeding. Maryland now has a case for a No. 1 seed and MSU will look for a No. 3 or 4.