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Big Ten Tournament: Michigan State survives Maryland’s furious comeback attempt, wins 76-72

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament- Maryland vs Michigan State Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

“Survive and advance.” That is the mantra with the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis now underway.

The No. 7-seeded Michigan State Spartans took on the No. 10-seeded Maryland Terrapins on Thursday night, and MSU walked away with a narrow 76 to 72 victory. The Spartans will advance to the next round of the conference tournament, but it wasn’t easy.

The Spartans dominated the majority of the game, but the Terrapins made it interesting late in the contest.

Center Marcus Bingham Jr. got the scoring going for Michigan State with a hook-shot, but Maryland guard Eric Ayala quickly answered back with a three-pointer. The teams would go back-and-forth from there and Michigan State led 13-7 at the first media timeout of the game with 15:35 left to play in the first half.

Maryland would then go on a quick 10-5 run to trim Michigan State’s lead to just one point, 18-17, at the next media timeout with 11:22 left to play before halftime. However, MSU would respond with a run of its own. Point guard Tyson Walker drilled a three-pointer and center Julius Marble connected on back-to-back baskets to give the Spartans a quick 7-0 run and extend the lead back out to eight points at 25-17.

Forward Donta Scott then hit a pair of free throws to end MSU’s run, but then freshman shooting guard Max Christie hit a deep shot for three points for the Spartans. Maryland guard Hakim Hart added a dunk and the Spartans led 28-21 with less than eight minutes to play before halftime.

Michigan State’s Brown and Maryland’s Ayala traded jumpers, and Christie then drilled another shot from behind the arc to put the Spartans up by double-digits at 33-23. Maryland then scored seven-straight points from guards Fatts Russell and Xavier Green to cut MSU’s lead to just three points. But Spartan point guard A.J. Hoggard responded with a layup to put MSU up 35-30.

The Spartans would then close the first half on an 8-4 run, which included a three-pointer by freshman guard Jaden Akins as the shot clock was expiring. Michigan State led Maryland 43-34 at halftime.

The Spartans shot very well in the first 20 minutes, going 16-for-28 overall from the field (57.1 percent) and 7-for-11 from three-point range (63.6) percent. Meanwhile, Maryland shot just 12-for-29 (41.4 percent) and 5-for-14 from deep (35.7 percent).

The second half was a roller-coaster ride. Michigan State started the second stanza with a 7-3 run, including an and-one play from Brown, which put the Spartans up 50-37 at the under-16-minute media timeout.

Michigan State then scored seven-straight points off of free throws from Marble, a shot-clock beating bucket from forward Malik Hall and a three-pointer from Brown to extend the Spartans’ lead to 20 points at 57-37 with 13:04 left to play, which would be MSU’s largest lead of the game. Maryland’s Scott then answered back with a three-pointer of his own.

Maryland refused to go away, though. The Terrapins cut the Spartans’ lead to just 10 points at 59-49 with 9:07 left to play, as Scott drilled another three-pointer. Hall and Hoggard quickly responded with four-straight points, however, to push the lead back up to 14 points. A jumper by Maryland guard Ian Martinez was answered with a jumper by Christie. MSU led 65-51 with seven minutes left to play.

Scott then completed a three-point play after a layup and free throw, and then Hart scored a layup to trim Michigan State’s lead to single-digits at 65-56 with 5:38 left on the clock. Akins would finally a break a scoring drought for the Spartans that took 3:50 of gameplay with a three-pointer, and that put MSU up 68-56 with just over three minutes left to play in the game.

Things got wild from here. A 9-0 run for the Terrapins, with Ayala, Hart and Russell all contributing, suddenly made it a three-point game. At this point, the Spartans narrowly led 68-65 with 1:33 remaining.

Maryland put on the press defense, and fueling the run for the Terps was four-straight turnovers for the Spartans — which for some inexplicable reason included inbounding the basketball to Bingham, who proceeded to try to dribble the ball up the court and immediately lost possession.

Michigan State was able to stop Maryland’s momentum briefly, as Walker hit a pair of free throws to put Michigan State up 70-65 with 1:26 left on the clock. On the other end, Ayala was called for traveling and the Spartans regained possession. However, a bad pass by forward Joey Hauser gave the ball right back to the Terrapins.

Russell then drove for a layup, and drew the foul on Hauser, who then fouled out of the game. Russell made the free throw to make it a two-point game, with Michigan State still leading 70-68 with just over a minute left on the clock.

On the other end, Walker would make a remarkable play with a turn-around fadeaway bucket to push Michigan State’s lead to four points with just 40 seconds remaining. Walker then played strong defense on Maryland’s next possession, forcing a miss by Russell.

Christie would then go to the free-throw line and sink both shots, giving MSU a 74-68 advantage with 31 seconds to play. Hart then made a layup, and Maryland cut the Spartans’ lead to four points. A bad inbounds play was intercepted by Maryland and Ayala scored a layup. With 16 seconds to play, the score was Michigan State 74, Maryland 72.

Unbelievably, Michigan State would turn it over once again, giving Maryland possession of the basketball. Fortunately for MSU, Russell missed a three-point attempt with just nine seconds left on the clock.

Christie would ice the game with a pair of free throws, giving the Spartans the 76-72 victory.

Christie led Michigan State in scoring with 16 points, while Brown chipped in 13 points. Both players also led the Spartans with six rebounds each. Russell led Maryland with 20 points, while Ayala scored 17, Scott scored 15 and Hart added 11 points.

Michigan State shot 27-for-54 overall (50 percent) and 9-for-19 from three-point range (47.4 percent). Maryland went 25-for-64 from the field (39.1 percent) and just 9-for-29 from deep range (31 percent). MSU out-rebound UMD 40-30. The Spartans had 16 turnovers, including 11 in the second half, compared to just six for the Terrapins.

After the game, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was clearly frustrated with his team’s near collapse. But he praised Maryland interim head coach Danny Manning, and took the blame for the Spartans’ late struggle. At the end of the day, Michigan State earned a hard-fought victory.

“It was ridiculous what we did at the end,” Izzo told Big Ten Network analyst Andy Katz. “I’m gonna take total fault for it.”

This was the third time in three meetings this season that the Spartans defeated the Terps. Michigan State now advances to the quarterfinals in the Big Ten Tournament, and will take on the Wisconsin Badgers on Friday at 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).