Maryland men’s basketball’s matchup with No. 13 Michigan State looked like the same old story at halftime.
Just like in their game against Indiana, the Terps stalled out just before hitting the 20-minute mark. Their match with the Hoosiers started close, but Indiana broke away before the first buzzer.
Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 12 of Indiana’s 33 opening-half points and Maryland couldn’t stop him. The Hoosiers tore off on a 10-point run to end the half, punctuated by a thunderous dunk by Jackson-Davis that came off a Maryland shot clock violation. Indiana earned seven other points off Maryland turnovers that half.
The Terps left the period down, 33-26, and were never able to recover.
“In the Indiana game, we struggled from the field all game long,” interim head coach Danny Manning said.
Against the Spartans three days later, a similar breakdown occurred. The score stayed close in the beginning of the half, but the Terps found themselves walking to the locker room in a 10-point hole.
They gave up eight turnovers and Michigan St. converted them into 14 points. Maryland’s defense — which already clocked two blocks — stumbled severely, allowing the Spartans to score 10 unanswered points to finish the half.
The Terps’ offensive production also halted. They went the last 4:50 of the opening half without a basket and headed to the locker room down 10 points.
But Tuesday night’s back half wasn’t the same story.
In the second half, Maryland gave up just three points off turnovers and it snagged 10 for itself. The Terps’ field goal percentage shot up from 36 to 50 percent. They forced Michigan St.’s two highest-scoring starters — Marcus Bingham Jr. and Joey Hauser — into foul trouble.
While their fate was the same and the match resulted in a loss, Maryland scratched and clawed to stay alive against a ranked Spartans squad. Manning’s team’s improvement between the two games was palpable.
“We made more shots, we did a better job of getting to the free-throw line [against Michigan State], this game was more important from the free-throw line,” Manning said. “And we did a better job of taking care of the basketball.”
Manning tested out a different lineup against the Spartans. To bolster his defense, Manning used Xavier Green.
Green played for 29 minutes against Michigan St. and 21 against Indiana. Despite only scoring two points in the game, Green left the court as one of three Terps with the highest plus-minus at the end of the game with a +10.
“[Green] is very impactful. The kinds of stuff that he doing don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Eric Ayala said. “His energy, keeping us into the game and stuff like that. . . it means a lot. You say he’s plus 10 but he had two points and two assists. It felt like he had a bigger impact than that.”
After a match with the Hoosiers that was riddled with inconsistencies and poor showings, Maryland changed many of the things that brought it down.
And those changes brought the Terps within an inch of the biggest upset of their season so far.
“In the Indiana game, that wasn’t Maryland basketball. We talked about it,” Fatts Russell said. “The fight wasn’t there. Today, we came out and we emphasized the fight for 40 minutes. I felt like we did that for the most part, we just came up short.”