INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan State basketball’s Big Ten tournament matinee with Maryland couldn’t have started better. And it couldn’t have turned any worse once the whistles increased.
The Spartans’ early 12-point lead flipped by halftime as the Terrapins drew foul after foul, chipping away at the free-throw line and overtaking the lead before halftime. Maryland pulled away to a 68-57 victory Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That might have ended the run in the conference tournament, but it only extends the wait for the Spartans (15-12). They will remain in Indy through Sunday’s selection show to see if Tom Izzo’s streak will be extended to 23 consecutive NCAA tournament berths. Most bracket projectors had MSU in the field regardless of what happened in the league tourney based on three top-5 wins over Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State in the final three weeks of the regular season.
Malk Hall’s 19 points led MSU, including 10 points in a row in the second half for the Spartans after the Terrapins built as big as a 19-point lead. Indianapolis native Aaron Henry finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists but committed six of the Spartans’ 18 turnovers and made just 5 of 12 shots.
Maryland (16-12) advances to play No. 4 Michigan at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the quarterfinals. Eric Ayala led the Terps with 21 points, making 10 of 11 free throws. Maryland was 20 for 28 at the line. Aaron Wiggins scored 19.
MSU shot 37.9% for the game but made just 4 of 28 shots after a hot shooting start. The Spartans committed 24 fouls, while the Terrapins committed 20. Izzo and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon each got a technical arguing the officiating in a game plagued by constant stoppages in the final 30 minutes of play.
It is the first time Izzo has lost his first game in the Big Ten tournament since 2010 and just the fourth time since it began in 1998.
Hot start goes foul
MSU got off to as good a start as imaginable, particularly after giving up the first 11 points in the first meeting between these two teams – a 73-55 Maryland win Feb. 28 in College Park.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Watts and Malik Hall, along with a dunk and a put-back basket by Marcus Bingham Jr. forced Terps coach Mark Turgeon to call timeout as the Spartans raced out to a 17-6 lead just 6:11 into the first half. That grew to a 12-point advantage on layups by Joshua Langford and Joey Hauser.
MSU looked sharp offensively, making 10 of its first 15 shots and stifling Maryland defensively.
Then the whistles started. And didn’t stop.
The Terps kept driving, and the refs kept calling fouls. Eric Ayala scored eight of their 11 points during an 18-4 rally on free throws, two of them coming from Izzo’s technical with 4:18 to go after a call on Jack Hoiberg. The tally at that point: 12 MSU fouls, five on Maryland.
In the first meeting, the Terps went 23 of 24 at the line on 19 Spartan fouls, with Ayala going 13 for 13. The 6-foot-5 junior guard was 8 of 8 at the stripe in the first half Thursday, and his 3-pointer as time expired sent the Terps into the locker room up, 34-30.
Despite making just 7 of 22 shots, Maryland was 15 of 16 on free throws in the first half. Five of MSU's eight first-half free-throw attempts came in the final 2:55.
Cold as ice
As Maryland chipped away at the free-throw line, the Spartans’ shot selection began to wane as the Terrapins turned up their defense.
MSU made just 1 of 9 shots in the final 10:21 before intermission. That carried over into the second half, and the Spartans languished through nearly 12 minutes without a field goal between Henry’s 3-pointer with 5:40 to go in the first half and A.J. Hoggard’s layup with 13:43 to play in the game.
After missing just five of its first 15 shots, MSU went into a prolonged drought that coincided with the foul issues and Maryland’s free-throw parade.
The Terrapins, not exactly scorching the nets themselves, went ahead by 18 points that included back-to-back three-point plays in an 8-0 run midway through the second half the Spartans never recovered from.
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball shelled by Maryland in Big Ten tournament