EAST LANSING – The No. 23 Michigan State Spartans suffered their first defeat of the season Thursday as the No. 12 Maryland Terrapins came into the Breslin and won 93-87. Here are three key takeaways from the Spartans’ loss.
1) The Spartans are here to stay
Even in a loss, the Spartans proved that they have the ability to hang with what was considered by the rankings to be the best team in the Big Ten.
Record-wise, that had been the Spartans before losing, but the way they competed against Maryland shows that they should belong among the best teams in the Big Ten this season.
This especially holds true when you have a player in Nia Clouden who, while playing against lethal scorers in Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller, can lead the game with a career-high 32 points, putting the team on her back late. With her leading the charge, the Spartans can’t be counted out against anyone.
“We had that fight when we needed it,” sophomore Julia Ayrault said of the team’s second-half comeback. “We still couldn’t get over the hump, but it’s something that we’ll build off of moving forward.”
Consistency was an issue at times in this game, especially during the second quarter.
2) A second quarter to forget
When looking at what ultimately cost the Spartans this game, one can’t help but look at their performance in the second quarter.
“The second quarter killed us,” Ayrault said.
After a back-and-forth first quarter that saw the Spartans only down three points, MSU didn’t make a field goal in the second quarter until there was 4:47.
The Spartans had only one total point in that time, which saw Maryland eventually finish the first half up by 15.
Basketball is a game of runs, but MSU wasn’t able to counter Maryland’s well enough to prevent a double-digit lead.
The Spartans’ second-half comeback looked like it might not matter for a second, but ultimately that second period stretch is what cost them in the bigger picture of this game.
3) Huge free-throw line difference
If there is a second biggest reason why the Spartans couldn’t pick up the win, it is the huge free-throw discrepancy between the two teams.
MSU only attempted 14 free throws on the day, making nine of them, compared to 33 makes out of 38 attempts for Maryland.
The fact that the Terrapins ended up with more attempts isn’t that surprising, considering that they had made and attempted the most free throws in the Big Ten prior to Thursday’s game.
Additionally, MSU had given up the most free throws in the conference this season.
Those two factors combined in the worst way for the Spartans, making it that much harder for them to build an eventual comeback in the second half.
It’s also going to be a point to watch going forward if more teams try to take advantage of MSU by continually attacking and seeing if they can get calls against the Spartan defense.
The Spartans will look to get a new winning streak started when they take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers Sunday at home.