No. 17 Michigan State shows grit in home win over No. 9 Maryland.
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The first season Maryland joined the Big Ten, the Terrapins went unbeaten in conference play — both the regular season and the league tournament.
That was only four years ago, but it feels well in the past now.
Jenna Allen scored 16 points and Nia Clouden added 15 to lift No. 17 Michigan State to a 77-60 victory over No. 9 Maryland on Thursday night. It was only the 10th loss to a conference opponent for the Terrapins since 2014-15, but seven of those have occurred in the last 12 ½ months.
“The past four years or so, when they first came into the Big Ten, they haven’t lost a lot,” Allen said. “It’s always a good win to get over them.”
The Spartans (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) led almost throughout, racing out to a 20-4 advantage in the first quarter. Maryland (15-2, 4-2) closed to within three at halftime, but Michigan State took control again in the third in this matchup between the highest-ranked Big Ten teams in this week’s AP Top 25.
It was the second victory over a top-10 team for the Spartans this season. They beat No. 3 Oregon on Dec. 9.
Michigan State made five 3-pointers in the first quarter against Maryland. The Spartans made only one after that, but they kept playing with confidence. Taryn McCutcheon scored 12 points for Michigan State, which had lost three of its previous four games.
“I thought Michigan State was tremendous,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “They had a mentality coming off their last loss. They were hungry, they were motivated. The 3s really hurt us, I thought, just having to climb back through the course of the game.”
The Spartans led 37-34 at halftime but pushed the lead back to double digits in the third and stayed in control after that.
Brianna Fraser led Maryland with 22 points.
The Terps lead the all-time series with Michigan State 11-2, but they’ve lost two of the last three meetings.
Maryland: The Terps did not have much scoring balance, with only two players in double figures. Although Maryland got back in the game by halftime, the Terrapins were on their heels early, and they never looked all that comfortable. Maryland had an 8-2 advantage in offensive rebounds in the first half, but Michigan State led that category 10-2 over the final 20 minutes.
Michigan State: The Spartans remain undefeated at home, and they still have to be considered a threat in this jumbled Big Ten race. Michigan State let most of its early lead get away quickly, but the Spartans responded impressively in the third quarter, never letting Maryland get on any type of run in the second half.
Maryland figures to drop, but Michigan State is not making it easy on voters with its enigmatic play of late. The Spartans lost at Ohio State on Monday, which likely limits how far they’ll rise in the ranking.
There are six Big Ten teams in the Top 25, and four have lost already this week.
“I don’t expect anything to change,” Frese said. “The parity is so great. That’s what we’ve always wanted, where any given night, anyone can beat anyone, home or on the road. It’s great for the conference, when you see the influx of all the talent that’s on each roster.”
Tori Jankoska, Michigan State’s career leader in scoring, is now on the Maryland staff as director of recruiting operations and player personnel.
“Having Tori sitting over there on the sideline made me want to beat them more, to be honest,” Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said with a laugh.
Maryland: The Terrapins host Penn State on Sunday.
Michigan State: The Spartans play Sunday at Rutgers, which is the last remaining Big Ten team without a conference loss.