FINAL: Foul bug bites Spartans again, fall to Maryland 68-57 in Big Ten Tournament

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MSU guard Joshua Langford looks for an open teammate in the Spartans’ 68-57 loss to Maryland in the first round of the Big Ten tournament/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — The Michigan State Spartans got quite the reality check in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, getting thrashed by Maryland 68-57. Nonetheless, the Spartans’ at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament seems safe, while the Terrapins perhaps solidified their spot as well.

Rocket Watts, after a brilliant 21-point outing off the bench vs. Michigan last Sunday, got the start for the Spartans. He and Malik Hall hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the game as part of an 8-0 scoring run to put the Spartans ahead 12-4 just four-and-a-half minutes in.

The Spartans continued to enjoy their lead, as everybody got involved. Marcus Bingham Jr. had an early block, Gabe Brown finished a drive-and-slam and Joey Hauser dropped a pair of post hooks. The Spartans started the game shooting 10-for-15 from the floor with the Terrapins shooting just 2-for-10.

Then, as quickly as things started for the Spartans, they halted. The Terrapins’ defense tightened up, led by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell. Maryland went on a 7-0 run to cut the Spartans’ lead to five points with seven minutes to play in the half. Finally, an Aaron Henry 3-pointer broke the ice.

The trend continued, however, and the Terrapins seized a major advantage by getting to the free throw line. Eric Ayala had 13 first-half points for Maryland, shooting eight free throws. Aaron Wiggins also shot six free throws. In total, the Terrapins shot 16 first-half free throws to the Spartans’ eight. 

The glaring discrepancy in fouls had MSU coach Tom Izzo irate. With 4:18 to play in the half, Izzo picked up a technical foul for arguing a shooting foul on an Ayala drive. The Spartans were called for 14 first-half fouls while the Terrapins were called for just eight.

“That was ridiculous,” Izzo said at halftime. “This drive-to-get-fouled stuff is just…”

Henry didn’t mince words on the matter, either.

“(The officials) were just making calls, I don’t know where they were getting them from,” Henry said.

All of the whistles seemed to disrupt the Spartans’ offensive flow, as they were held without a field goal for the final 5:40 of the half. 

“After about the first 10 minutes, we let their run at the beginning get us down,” Hall said. “We never recovered from it.”

One thing the Spartans did do well in the first half was spreading the wealth. Nine different Spartans found the scoring column, including walk-on junior guard Jack Hoiberg, who hit a free throw.

Ayala nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Terrapins up 34-30 at halftime. 

Maryland opened the second half with a bang, scoring six-straight points to go up double digits. The Spartans were unable to score until 13:43 to play, when A.J. Hoggard banked in an and-one layup. Watts also found Bingham Jr. for an alley-oop slam, but neither play was enough to give the team any momentum.

Marcus Bingham Jr. throws down a powerful dunk in the Spartans’ 68-57 loss to Maryland in the first round off the Big Ten tournament/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The sluggish finish to the first half and start of the second half were ultimately too much for the Spartans to come back from, as Maryland pulled away to win it.

Hall tried his hardest to get his team back in it, leading the Spartans for the game with 19 points.

A critical reason for the Spartans’ struggles was the lack of production from Joshua Langford. The fifth-year player shot just 1-for-8 from the field including 0-for-4 on 3-pointers. Henry also struggled, scoring 12 points but turning the ball over six times.

Ayala and Wiggins combined for 40 points to lead the Terrapins. Morsell also gave a nice sevens points and seven boards.

The Terrapins advance to play the Michigan Wolverines Friday at 11:30 p.m. while the Spartans await Selection Sunday.

Follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley.