Aaron Henry did not see the rush of gold. After blocking a shot on the defensive end, the Michigan State forward drove to the rim looking for points.
Instead, Maryland men’s basketball swarmed. Aaron Wiggins and Galin Smith crashed the glass much as they had all game, creating limited space for Henry to operate. As he rose for the layup, so did Wiggins and Smith, the latter swatting the shot away to Hakim Hart.
He finished on the other end with authority, a four-point swing that stemmed a rallying Spartans squad. And that defensive performance helped Maryland control Sunday’s contest against Michigan State. The Spartans looked stagnant on offense as the Terps surged to their fifth straight win, 73-55.
“I challenged the guys to be physical and don’t get shoved around,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “Our defense was shot out of a cannon.”
Maryland (15-10, 9-9 Big Ten) came out fast and furious, forcing Michigan State into bad shots and turnovers that spurred an opening 11-0 run by Turgeon’s squad. The Terps doubled Julius Marble, who threw it to a waiting Wiggins. He pushed the pace, finding Darryl Morsell for a splash from deep.
Joshua Langford then forced a contested shot, which came back the other way and ended in a Hart three. And Maryland stayed with Henry in transition, whose off-kilter three attempt ended in a Wiggins dime and a timeout from a frustrated Tom Izzo.
“Just trying to hit first, not letting teams come out and, you know, we respond to a team’s run,” guard Eric Ayala said. “[It’s] making teams respond to us.”
Henry finally put the Spartans on the board 6:09 into the half with a backdoor layup, but that opening spurt proved too much for Michigan State (13-10, 7-10) to overcome. The Terps’ aggressive attack on the defensive end prevented any extended runs by the Spartans. And in fleeting moments when Michigan State appeared to gain life, Maryland would answer on the offensive end.
A deft Morsell floater, an Ayala lay-in off the fastbreak and a smooth Jairus Hamilton three all kept the Spartans at a distance, and the Terps entered the locker room up 10. It was one of Maryland’s best first halves of the season, a stretch in which Turgeon’s squad maintained control.
That pace continued in the second half, once again buoyed by the defensive pressure. Henry couldn’t hit a hook shot, forced to his off hand by a sea of gold shirts. Joey Hauser clanked a contested three-point attempt.
And as Henry rose for a layup on the fastbreak, Smith chased him down and smacked the shot away to Hart. The sophomore cruised down the floor unimpeded and threw down a one-handed slam, keeping the Terps ahead nine.
“[Hart’s] physically tougher, he’s mentally tougher, he’s tired of me yelling at him about being soft,” Turgeon said. “It’s kind of all coming together now.”
Michigan State found a little life partway through the period, during a nine-plus-minute stretch when Maryland only hit one field goal. Malik Hall went at the Terps’ interior and laid one in, Hauser hit an off-balance three as the shot clock expired and Hall drew Smith’s fourth foul and hit one of two free throws.
That run closed the gap to five, but the Spartans would get no closer. Maryland clamped down, swarming the paint and forcing bad looks much like it did in the contest’s opening moments.
And the offense found a bit more life, threes from Hart and Donta Scott sending the Terps to a double-digit advantage once again. Maryland shot 50 percent from deep as opposed to Michigan State’s 28.6 percent, while the Spartans only made 33.3 percent of its total field goals.
That late barrage was enough for the Terps to overcome a surging Michigan State side. Maryland got off to a hot start, and continued that momentum — hitting timely shots and locking down on its opponent’s dynamic offense.
A Wiggins dunk sealed it, breaching the 70-point mark for the Terps. Once more, it sent Maryland’s bench into a rush of gold.
“It’s winning time, for real,” Morsell said.