EAST LANSING – Following a stretch when three of Michigan State’s five scheduled games within an 18-day span were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, the Spartans looked to continue their strong momentum from their 94-62 over Wisconsin on Thursday night against Maryland.
Instead, they ran into a brick wall of a Maryland team that was seemingly very hungry following its second loss of the season to the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Terrapins came out of the gate with force, and they jumped out to a 27-15 lead.
That’s where we get the first big takeaway from the contest for head coach Suzy Merchant and her Spartans, which is get out of the gate faster. While there have been some games when the Spartans have jumped out to good starts on multiple occasions, it’s something that should ideally happen every game.
That’s something that the Spartans will have to keep working toward. A good start sets the tone for the entire game, and in the Spartans’ case on Thursday, a bad start is nearly insurmountable.
Once things really started going, Maryland really built its lead off of exceptional 3-point shooting, as the Terps shot 14-for-28 from 3-point land on the game. That leads me to my second big takeaway for the Spartans, which is 3-point defense, and the fact that it needs to improve.
Over their last four games, the Spartans have allowed opponents to shoot a whopping 40% from beyond the arc, which is significantly different from the 3-point defense that Michigan State possessed earlier in the season.
In early-season wins over Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue, the Spartans held those teams to an average of 26% from the three. At that point in the season, the Spartans were hanging around a spot in the top 25 rankings, and they were in contention for the Big Ten regular season title.
It becomes increasingly important that for the Spartans to revert to the form shown against Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue, they will need to improve their 3-point defense.
The third takeaway, and yet another crushing blow for the Spartans chances for victory against the Terrapins, was the turnover battle. While the Spartans have maintained a pretty low average throughout the year in terms of turnovers a game, Thursday was an exception, as they turned the ball over a whopping 24 times.
In fact, this was only the second time this season that the Spartans turned the ball over more than 16 times. While this hasn’t become a problematic pattern like the 3-point defense,, it will definitely be a key part of the game plan against Indiana on Sunday.
Overall this season, Merchant truly has done an incredible job of adjusting the Spartans to whatever needs to be fixed on a game-to-game basis. Thursday’s game against Maryland should be taken more as a one-time showing than a commonplace for the Spartans. But these takeaways are three key aspects of the game that Michigan State will look to improve against Indiana.
Follow Manit Patel on Twitter @manit_patel.