It was a rough night for the Maryland Terrapins, they hadn’t even been a full 24 hours since losing sophomore guard Blair Watson for the season due to an ACL injury. She went down Wednesday in practice and her absence was definitely felt last night when Maryland hosted Michigan State. The Spartans used tough physical defense and a career night from guard Taryn McCutcheon to get past the Terps 82-68. McCutcheon scored 25 points going 6-of 11 from the field, including 6-of-10 from the three point line. They were able to hold Maryland to just 39% shooting from the floor, more importantly the Spartans defense forced 24 turnovers. Maryland was led by Kaila Charles with 11 points, but she, like the rest of her team struggled from the floor.
Despite committing six turnovers in the first quarter, Maryland only trailed by two heading into the second period. Eleanna Chrstinaki got the start in Watson’s place and got off to a good start, scoring 7 points. Things changed in the second period when Michigan State got a bit more physical on the defensive end, the officials really let both teams play and the Spartans used that to their advantage. As Coach Brenda Frese noted after the game, that’s probably going to become part of the scouting report for Maryland’s foes as the season goes on. Get your hands on them and disrupt them, touch them as much as possible and it’ll get them out of sorts a bit.
The Terps were able to settle down a little in the second period, going on a run to cut the deficit to four at one point, but the Spartans did a good job of not losing their poise. Maryland used their length and athleticism to pressure Michigan State with traps and it generated some easy offense, but a couple of timely triples from McCutcheon helped settle things down. One of the reasons Maryland was able to gain some ground was they only turned the ball over four times in the quarter, forcing the Spartans to run their half court offense. Despite lowering their turnovers, the Terps struggles on offense led to them shooting just 33% in the period and Michigan State shot 47%. The ball was moving well for the Spartans while Maryland was taking ill advised shot, that combination resulted in Michigan State holding a 38-31 lead at the halftime break.
A very poor start to the second half cost Maryland, instead of cutting into the deficit, Michigan State was able to extend their lead to 12. A few moments later, the Terrapins would make a run. They turned up a bit on defense and got to doing what they do best, run. Getting stops and running in transition really helped Maryland get comfortable and it got the crowd back into the game. Once again a couple timely triples from McCutcheon ruined the Terps progress. They got two stops after seeing their lead cut to four, both offensive possessions ended in three pointers. That pushed the lead back to 10, helping to quell the Maryland run. Then Shay Colley hit a floater as time expired, pushing the Michigan State lead to 12 heading into the fourth period.
Several times this season, the Terrapins have made big runs late in games. That wouldn’t be the case against Michigan State however, when they did get stops, they couldn’t capitalize on those offensive possessions. Brianna Fraser had a big second half, scoring 14 of her 17 points in the second half including 8 in the fourth quarter. Maryland shot 54% from the floor and held the Spartans to 30% shooting, the problem is that they turned the ball over 10 times. It’s hard enough to get back into games when trailing, giving your opponent the ball that many times surely doesn’t help. The Spartans had good contributions from their bigs in the third quarter, knocking down midrange jumpers. In the fourth it was all McCutcheon, she scored 10 points to help close things out.
On what was clearly an emotional night, Maryland could never get right. It’s only one game, but the Terps lost one of their biggest pieces and the game against the Spartans really showed how much Watson brought to the table. They’re also going to have to deal with every team for the remainder of the season going out there way to be overly physical with them.