COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Michigan State basketball seemed to have it all together and ready to put things on the coast with a dominant first half.
One problem: Coast doesn't win road games in the Big Ten.
One solution is to call Tom Izzo's team when focus is needed most.
After leading by 15 points in the first half behind strong shooting and stifling defense, the Spartans once again found themselves in another dogfight. And when they needed their stars and defense the most, both came.
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AJ Hoggard scored half of his 12 points in the final 7:14 after Maryland briefly took the lead back. Tyson Walker scored five of his 15 in the final five minutes, including a crucial 3-pointer with 44.5 seconds left. And Tre Holloman's steal of the Terps' Jahmir Young in the final seconds allowed the Spartans to hold on for their first true road win of the season, 61-59, on Sunday at the Xfinity Center.
“We were desperate to get an away win before,” said Holloman, who hit three 3-pointers and scored all 12 of his points in the first half. “I had to step up big, and it feels great.”
Malik Hall added 12 points and six rebounds as MSU (12-7, 4-4 Big Ten) found a way to win its third straight game. It matched the Spartans' deepest run in a season without a true win on the road during Izzo's tenure — 20 years ago, when the 2003-04 team didn't get a win until Jan. 21, 2004, at Northwestern.
“We know it's tough to win on the road in the Big Ten,” Hoggard said. “Just coming out here and being able to turn it around after they came out so strong at the start of the second half…it's just mobilizing and figuring it out, using our experience and expertise, battling it out and finding a way.” “to win”
Maryland (11-8, 3-5), which entered Sunday as the worst three-point shooting team (25.4%) in conference games, hit eight 3-pointers and overcame early scoring woes to come back and take a brief lead after halftime. Young had a deep shot ruled a two-pointer with 36.3 seconds to play — his toe was on the 3-point line — and his turnover in the final seconds was the Terrapins' eighth of the game. MSU scored 19 points off those giveaways to counter giving up 10 second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds at Maryland.
Young had 19 points, but did so on just 6-for-15 shooting with seven turnovers. Donta Scott added 16 points, and Julian Reyes added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Terps. Maryland outscored MSU overall 37-22 in a tough game for the Spartans' big men.
“Normally I wouldn't be satisfied, but now we need a win on the road,” Izzo said. “After 39 years, you kind of realize that an ugly win is much better than a beautiful loss.” “It was an ugly win, and they deserve some credit for making it ugly. We deserve some blame for Lending Progress (15 points) as it happened. “I'm happy we got the win, and we'll move forward.”
The Terps have won 25 of their last 27 home games on Sunday. The Spartans improved to 4-3 in Maryland under Izzo and won their second straight at the Xfinity Center.
“They don't lose at home, so that's good,” Walker said. “Plus, getting our first win on the road here is really big.”
The Spartans travel to No. 8 Wisconsin on Friday for an 8pm tipoff at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin (FS1). The Badgers won Dec. 5 at MSU, 70-57, to open Big Ten play for both teams.
The Spartans dominated the first half
With Maryland entering the game shooting just 27.9% from 3-point range, Izzo elected to challenge the Terps to try to beat his team from deep.
“I think everyone does, to be honest with you,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard said.
Scott and Young both connected early as Maryland opened 2-for-3 from deep in the first 2:16. But MSU's law of averages and Big Ten-leading 3-point defense — 30.5% for its opponents entering Saturday — caught up to the Terrapins, who missed eight of their next nine from deep.
Meanwhile, the Spartans got another strong start from Hall, who scored 10 points in the first half after scoring five of MSU's first seven points and hitting his first 3-pointer.
It wasn't the last for the Spartans, as Holloman and Walker hit back-to-back possessions to start a 15-0 run with a pair of 3-pointers and a breakaway goal. Walker opened the 4:24 spurt with another 3-pointer, and Hall hit a pair of baseline jumpers as MSU's lead swelled to 29-16 with 9:08 to play before halftime. It grew to a 15-point cushion on a layup by Akins after a Walker steal and assist at the break.
The Spartans scored all 14 fast break points in the first half, sparked by four of Walker's five steals.
“We ran,” Walker said. “That's what put us ahead.”
The Spartans' defense stifled Maryland for 8:31 between field goals, with the Terrapins missing 11 straight shots. But they pulled within seven points on Jahari Long's 3-pointer with 1:48 left before halftime.
But Holloman's third 3-pointer of the half sparked a 7-2 run near halftime to send the Spartans to intermission with a 44-32 lead.
MSU was 6-for-10 from deep and shot 58.3% overall in the first half, while Maryland was 5-for-15 from 3 and made 37% of its shots.
“We played probably one of our best stretches of basketball, offensively and defensively,” Izzo said.
Hanging for the win
Maryland turned it up after halftime, and did so with uncharacteristic outside shooting.
Young opened the half with a 3-pointer and Scott hit another as part of the Terrapins' 16-4 run to start the second half. Scott's three-point play and layup tied the score at 48-48 with 12:15 left to play. Then Young's 3-pointer over Holloman with 8:23 left in the game gave Maryland its first lead of the second half, 53-50.
It was also the Spartans' turn to struggle offensively, missing 11 straight shots and going 8:09 between made field goals.
“In the second half, I thought they stepped up their defense, and they really gave us some shifts,” Izzo said. “And we didn't handle it well.”
But Hoggard attacked off the dribble for a pair of layups to break that drought and regain the lead. Then after an Izzo timeout with 5:23 to play, Walker stabbed the paint and finished through traffic to put MSU ahead, 56-63.
“It changed the game tremendously,” Hoggard said of he and Walker penetrating the paint. “We started to put pressure on our defence.”
The Spartans' defense, including a key Holloman play in the final seconds, made sure Maryland couldn't come back, even though Young tried to will it.
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