Lopsided third quarter knocks Spartans out of Big Ten tournament



Jenna Allen/MSU Athletic Communications

Kyle Hatty, Baseball Beat Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Spartans came into day three of the Big Ten tournament looking for their second upset in two days and second upset of Maryland this season. Michigan State beat the Terrapins 77-60 at the Breslin Center, which turned out to be only one of three losses Maryland suffered all season. That was not the case in Indianapolis. The Spartans made it a game by cutting the lead to five near the end of the second quarter, but the Terrapins exploded in the second half, leading to a final score of 71-55.

The first half was all Maryland, as they controlled the tempo of play and played great defense until late in the second quarter, when Suzy Merchant called a timeout and the Spartans emerged as a different team. Michigan State, who trailed by 15 points early in the second quarter, started forcing turnovers and settling down on offense by controlling the tempo to trim the deficit down, ending the half on a 12-1 scoring run to trail 35-31.

The game was filled with runs that had the game go back and forth, including large runs of 14-1 for the Spartans and 17-6 run for the Terrapins. In the second half, Michigan State cut the Maryland lead to one, but then a cold streak followed that allowed Maryland to go on a 15-2 run late in the third quarter due to Michigan State breaking down defensively.

The game was close until the third quarter, when all of the sudden Maryland couldn’t miss and Michigan State couldn’t make a shot. The Spartans shot 13 percent from the field in the third quarter, compared to Maryland who shot 82 percent from the field in the third. After that stretch, Maryland’s lead was seemingly insurmountable, as the Spartans went into the fourth down 20 points. 

“I’m not sure what happened. It seemed to just quickly slip away from us,” Merchant said. 

Maryland played excellent defense all game, making the Spartans work for every basket and force ill-advised shots. This caused Michigan State to shoot 29 percent from the field, a huge factor in the double-digit loss.

The Terrapins held multiple starters to poor offensive numbers, including Victoria Gaines finishing with two points and Taryn McCutcheon with three. The only Spartan to put up a strong offensive effort was Jenna Allen, who scored 19 while adding seven rebounds.

Kaila Charles led the way for the Terrapins with an incredible day on the offensive end. She put up 21 points and added 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Also finishing in double digits for Maryland was Stephanie Jones with 14 points and Blair Watson with 11.

After the game, Merchant was impressed by how her team showed up despite the end result.

“I thought this our kids came out focused and I loved our fight, I think we got right back to where we needed to be.”

The biggest overarching theme of Merchant’s press conference was her displeasure with the team’s inconsistency.

“This has seemed to happen to us a lot, I can’t predict what happens. We can get hot at any time but it always seems to be a quarter, we got to 10 points this time, usually we only get to six, so we got four more than we usually would,” Merchant said, trying to make a joke and lighten the mood.

Merchant made a point that the time off could be good to rest up, both physically and mentally.

“We need to come out and play four strong quarters, we did it against Maryland earlier in the year, we did it against Iowa, and we did it against Oregon. When we do that we usually come out on top”

Maryland (27-3) will await the winner of Michigan and Wisconsin to see who they play on Saturday in Indianapolis in the semifinals.

Michigan State (20-11) won’t play until the NCAA tournament, so they won’t know who they play until selection sunday on Mar. 18.