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Ward Held Scoreless, MSU Still Cruises In Home Win Over Maryland

Cassius Winston
Al Martin - WKAR

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Even without Nick Ward at his best, No. 6 Michigan State turned on the jets in the second half to defeat No. 13 Maryland 69-55 and remain unbeaten in Big Ten play.

It was not pretty, but MSU has shown this year that it’s capable of winning games in any sort of fashion. With Ward picking up his second foul with eight minutes left in the first half and his third just 40 seconds after halftime, the scoring spread out to the rest of the MSU starters, as Kenny Goins picked up 14 points of his own and Matt McQuaid added 10. 

MSU’s lead was just 11 with 5:42 left, but acrobatic layups from Aaron Henry and Cassius Winston on back-to-back possessions pushed the Spartan lead to 17, putting the game out of reach.

“I was really impressed with our defense in general,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “Winning a game like that without Nick playing, he might as well have been with Josh [Langford].” Langford missed another game, but Izzo mentioned postgame that he is beginning to work out as he rehabs an ankle injury.

Ward’s foul trouble held him scoreless for the first time in his career. With a physical matchup inside against UMD’s Bruno Fernando, Ward found it difficult to get post touches and ended with just three attempts from the field. The junior forward ended up playing just over 13 minutes of game time.

Winston took a while to get going but finished with 14 points and seven assists on 6-of-12 shooting. For all of the pregame hype surrounding the Anthony Cowan-Winston matchup, the two combined for just seven points at halftime.

Cowan had a forgettable night offensively, scoring just 7 points on 3-of-12 shooting. The junior usually leads the Terps in scoring at nearly 18 points a game, but Winston’s defensive work went a long way in holding Cowan to his lowest point total of the season.

It was not Winston’s most productive offensive night but with two more games coming up in the next six days, the junior guard may have to pick and choose his nights to go all-out after a career-high point total last week at Nebraska.

Aaron Henry started his third consecutive game and had another strong two-way performance, collecting 12 points to go with 6 rebounds. With Kyle Ahrens playing his first game since Jan. 8 against Purdue, the freshman made quite the case for playing time with the first double-digit game of his young career.

“It’s relieving,” Henry said. “I think the most important part of the game was me rebounding the ball, passing the ball, I’m just glad I let the game come to me.”

MSU started hot, running out to an 18-6 lead at the midway point of the first half. However, Ward’s second foul allowed a little more inside leeway for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins, who went on an 8-0 run that had MSU scoreless for just over five minutes.

Maryland improved defensively as well, forcing MSU into plenty of forced shots late in the shot clock. Both teams were solid defensively in the first half, but with Ward on the bench, it was with the play of Thomas Kithier that the game started to shift. Alongside Goins, Ahrens, Winston and McQuaid, the unorthodox lineup went on a 7-0 run just before halftime to stretch the MSU lead. All told, MSU carried the momentum of an 11-0 run into a halftime lead of 31-20.

“What he [Kithier] did, he ran the court,” Izzo said. “Nick was frustrated, but he handled it well. I was more frustrated than he was.”

Ward’s foul trouble kept him quiet on the stat sheet, but Xavier Tillman and Goins combined for solid defense on the sophomore Fernando inside. Fernando came into Monday night’s game averaging 14.5 points a game and finished with just 12.

MSU now moves to 17-2 on the year and is now 8-0 in Big Ten play after receiving a pair of No. 1 votes in the AP poll. They next travel to Iowa on Thursday, tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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