By Jack Rothenberg
A seven day lay-off couldn’t stop the Maryland Terrapins’ momentum as they came out of the gates hot and never backed off, taking down the Michigan State Spartans 73-55 for their fifth straight victory. The Terps finished the contest shooting an astonishing 23/24 from the free throw line. Combine that with four double-digit scorers and 33 percent shooting from Michigan State, Maryland showed out when it mattered most and played a complete game.
Coming into Sunday senior guard Darryl Morsell was a game-time decision due to a shoulder injury suffered against Rutgers. Morsell assured his coach he was ready and got off to a fast start scoring Maryland’s first five points. “He’s so special. I knew we needed him on the floor to win the game. He does so many things for us on the court, he’s always in the right place…he’s the man,” junior guard Eric Ayala said.
Morsell (11 points) totaled nine points in the first half, and was stifling on defense as usual.
Maryland was lethal from beyond the arc starting 3/3 leading to an 11-0 start through the first six minutes. “That was pretty big… Michigan State is a team that loves to come out fighting and we just had to punch them in the face first,” sophomore Hakim Hart said.
The Terps continued their three point success throughout the half shooting 60 percent with junior forward Jairus Hamilton coming off of the bench and knocking down two of his own. On the other end, the Terps held Michigan State to 38 percent shooting from the floor and more importantly forced a poor three point shooting Spartans team to take 15 shots from three-point range.
Maryland also made all seven of their free throw attempts in the first period, helping the Terps to carry a double-digit lead into the break at 35-25.
In the second half still down 10 with 14:00, Michigan State made a three pointer to cut Maryland’s lead to seven. After a blocked shot on their defensive end, the Spartans were gaining momentum and seemed destined to cut further into the Terps’ lead. Michigan State’s do everything forward Aaron Henry drove into the lane but Maryland senior forward Galin Smith rose up and blocked his attempted lay-up leading to a breakaway dunk for Hart and another nine point lead.
Maryland again stretched their lead to 11, but the Spartans crept back into the game with a 6-0 run to narrow the Terps’ advantage to 49-44. That’s when the Terps tightened the screws on defense forcing Michigan State to miss their next nine shots from the field. And following a Romeo Langford missed jumper, Hart hit a deep three to extend Maryland’s lead to 12.
Hart was asked postgame if he enjoyed big time moments and knocking down the late game scenario shots. “I think I just got the big-time genes, I guess,” Hart responded.
Junior guard Aaron Wiggins capped off the win with a beautiful 360 dunk and helped the team take another huge step forward just before the calendar turned over to March. “I was surprised he did it in game…I know he can do all that kind of stuff. He got this one dunk that he do that y’all (would) be like wow,” Ayala said.
Ayala finished with 22 points and six rebounds and according to head coach Mark Turgeon this was his most complete game as a Terp. “I was impressed with myself on the defensive end…it was definitely a well-rounded performance. I want to keep winning… I play winning basketball, whatever I gotta do to help my team win, that’s what I’m all for,” Ayala said.
Now with two games left in the regular season schedule for Maryland, they seem to have a firm step in the door for the big dance. These last two contests are to confirm what we already know, that they deserve to be there. March 3 in Evanston against Northwestern won’t be a cake walk, but Maryland is in a groove that looks unstoppable.
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