Michigan State falls in a dogfight with No. 17 Maryland, 67-62


MSU forward Taiyier Parks attempts a free throw during the Spartans’ 73-64 loss to No. 24 Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Michael Markoch, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — It was a tough night for the Michigan State Spartans as they had their four-game winning streak snapped with a 67-62 loss to No.17 Maryland on Thursday. It was simply a night in which the Spartans didn’t do the little things right.

“I liked our fight,” Spartans’ head coach Suzy Merchant said. “But against a good team like that, everybody has got to show up offensively… and we just didn’t have everybody’s best offensive game.”

MSU guard Deedee Hagemann talks with head coach Suzy Merchant/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

One of the most noticeable things early on was that Maryland had a significant size advantage. That coupled with All-Big Ten point guard Diamond Miller, the Terrapins got off to a quick start, taking a 15-8 lead into the first timeout. The Terrapins were able to get whatever look they wanted in the early minutes with sophomore forward Angel Reese, the Terrapins leading scorer entering this game at 17.2 points per game.

Matilda Ekh hit an and-one three-pointer to cut the Maryland lead to 15-12 with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. A couple of possessions later, Ekh took a charge to maintain the Spartans’ sudden momentum, but it wouldn’t last long as MSU scored only three points in the final 4:41 of the first.

Maryland’s Ashley Owusu took a hard fall late in the quarter. She went straight to the locker room and never returned to game action. Owusu is averaging almost 15 points per game this season while shooting over 40% from the field. Despite the injury to one of their key starters, the Terrapins took a 21-15 lead into the second quarter.

The Terrapins were stunted, however, in the second quarter. At one point, holding a 25-15 lead, Maryland missed five shots in a row and did not score in a two-and-a-half-minute span. This drought allowed MSU to battle back and trim the lead to five, 25-20, with just over six minutes left in the half. The MSU run ended on an Ekh three-pointer that gave her sole possession of third place on the all-time list among Spartan freshmen for three-pointers made in a single season with 48.

MSU forward Matilda Ehk attempts a 3-pointer during the Spartans 75-60 win over Illinois on Dec. 9, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The Terrapins then went on a run to rebuild their lead, but once again would face their share of struggles on the offensive side. The Terrapins went over three and a half minutes without a field goal in the second quarter. Fortunately for Maryland, during that same stretch, the Spartans too would have struggles of their own, failing to make a field goal in over four minutes. The Terrapins would outscore the Spartans 11-10 in the second quarter and hold a 32-25 lead at the half.

At the break, both teams were under 40% shooting, Maryland shot 35% (12-for-34) and MSU shot 36% (10-for-28). Ekh led the Spartans with 10 points and Reese led the Terrapins with nine.

The Spartans could attribute their offensive struggles in the first half to turnovers. The Spartans had 10 turnovers in the first half, including three apiece by starting guards Nia Clouden and DeeDee Hagemann. Turnovers have been an issue for Hagemann this season as she came into this game averaging almost three per game. The turnovers halted the Spartans’ ability to find a rhythm offensively and they paid the price on the scoreboard.

MSU would come out on fire in the third quarter, opening the quarter with a 7-2 run to cut the Maryland lead to just two points. MSU became the team enforcing its will in the paint as senior forward Alisia Smith had four points in the first few minutes. 

But as the offense heated up, the defense cooled off for the Spartans. The Spartans simply had no answer for Reese, who had six points of her own in the first five minutes of the third. A crowd-silencing three-pointer by Katie Benzan gave the Terrapins a 43-34 advantage at the four-and-a-half-minute mark.

After that point, the third quarter belonged to Nia Clouden. The senior guard and Big Ten’s third-leading scorer erupted for 15 points in the quarter, including five 3-pointers to bring the Spartans within as little as five points. With time running down at the end of the third, Clouden dribbled to her left and pulled up for a fading three-pointer that she banked in at the buzzer to bring the Spartans within seven at the end of the quarter, 54-47.

MSU guard Nia Clouden runs the point in the Spartans’ 92-52 loss to No. 7 Maryland in 2019/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

“My teammates found me open on a lot of shots and I was able to create a few threes,” Clouden said. “I think I shot the ball well but there’s obviously a lot of things that I can improve on, especially putting together a complete game instead of just scoring in the second half,” said Clouden.

It was a back-and-forth affair to begin the fourth quarter. With eight and a half minutes to go, Alisia Smith nailed a fading baseline shot to force a quick Maryland time-out with the score of 58-51 in favor of the Terrapins. Spartans’ forward Tamara Farquhar would follow that up with a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to five. 

The Spartans forced five Maryland turnovers over a four-minute span in the fourth to get back into the game. Although the Spartans played a solid game defensively, they couldn’t seem to get stops at times when they desperately needed them.

“If we could have just cleaned up a couple of those turnovers for touchdowns and a couple rebound situations, we were just a half a player short on the offensive side,” Merchant said.

Maryland had 14 offensive rebounds in the game and consistently received second-chance opportunities. The Terrapins would turn those rebounds into 17 second-chance points, compared to the Spartans four, which proved to play a large role in the outcome. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Spartans turned it over 14 times in the game and only shot 55% (6-for-11) from the free-throw line.

With 2:29 to go, Clouden hit another fading 3-pointer to cut the Terrapins’ lead to two, 62-60. But Maryland would settle things down with Reese on the other end, as she was fouled and proceeded to make two free throws and push the lead back to four. 

MSU guard Nia Clouden tries to make an entry pass against Nebraska guard Nicea Eliely/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

A minute later, Farquhar drew a foul with 48 seconds remaining, knocked down both free throws and pulled the Spartans back within a basket. But once again, Angel Reese had an answer for the Terrapins, backing down Alisia Smith and laying the ball in with 26 ticks left, adding to her game-high 25 points.

After Clouden worked out of a double-team off of an inbounds pass, coach Merchant would take a timeout with 15.5 seconds to go in the game, needing a quick basket to extend the game. Clouden missed a three-pointer and MSU got an offensive rebound from Taiyier Parks, who was then fouled on her follow-up shot. However, Parks sealed the game and missed both free throws which left the Spartans down by four with six seconds remaining.

Maryland would knock down its ensuing free throws and officially push the lead out of reach. Along with Reese’s 25 points, the Terrapins got significant contributions from Miller and Shyanne Sellers, who had 14 and nine points respectively.

Clouden led the Spartans with 22 points and a career-high six three-pointers. She was followed by Smith with 18 points and Ekh with 10. Hagemann struggled mightily in this game. Along with four turnovers, she shot 0-for-8 from the floor and scored zero points.

 “We don’t ask DeeDee to always score and she always brings a lot to the game without having to score, but quite frankly, in a game like that, you get eight shots, we got to get you to knock a few of those down,” said Merchant.

The loss was MSU’s first in the Breslin Center since Jan. 9. The Spartans fell to 12-9 on the season while the Terrapins improved to 16-6. MSU’s next game will be on the road on Feb. 6 at Minnesota.