Michigan State vs. Maryland score: Spartans' disappointment continues as Terps storm back late for win
The woes continue this season for the team once ranked No. 1 in the preseason
The game wasn't over.
But it felt over.
Michigan State initially fell behind big, sure. But the Spartans had overcome what was a 15-point first-half deficit by outscoring Maryland 29-14 to start the second half. As a result, they were up 60-53 with 3:09 left. So the capacity crowd inside the Breslin Center was going wild. Players were slapping the floor.
Again, the game felt over.
But then ...
But then, incredibly, Maryland made a 3-pointer on four straight possessions -- the first coming from Jalen Smith, the following three from Anthony Cowan -- and sank two free throws on a fifth possession to close on a 14-0 run and beat Michigan State 67-60. It was one of the most out-of-nowhere finishes of this season.
"Give Maryland credit," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said afterward. "Championship teams make championship plays down the stretch."
But, even by that standard, this was ridiculous.
In what world does Michigan State blow a seven-point lead in the final 3:08 at home? In what world does Michigan State, in its own building, allow an opponent to score 14 points in the final 3:08? In what world does Michigan State, on its home court, let an opponent close by scoring on five straight possessions?
None of it makes sense.
But it's been that kind of season for Michigan State. The Spartans have sprinkled in good wins here and there -- a victory at Seton Hall in November, a win at Illinois earlier this week. But they've mostly been a disappointment time and time again, a preseason No. 1 that's come nowhere close to living up to expectations.
Michigan State is now 17-9 on the season. That means the Spartans have already lost two more times this season than they did all of last season (with five more regular-season games remaining). More often than not, they look like a team one or two players short of something special. They rarely get sufficient support from enough different places to defeat good opponents. That's among the reasons Michigan State is now 4-8 in Quadrant 1 opportunities and completely out of the AP Top 25 poll.
As for Maryland, man, this is turning into some kind of season. Mark Turgeon has done a solid job replacing the legend Gary Williams, appearing in four of the past five NCAA Tournaments, winning games in three of them. But, for reasons that aren't always clear to outsiders, Maryland fans have never completely embraced him.
Hopefully that's changing now.
His Terrapins are 21-4 overall, 11-3 in the Big Ten and alone atop the league standings. They'll take an eight-game winning streak into Tuesday's game with Northwestern. And they'll do it largely because of an unpopular decision Turgeon made years ago to accept a commitment from Cowan, who made five 3-pointers and finished with 24 points in Saturday's win at Michigan State.
Let's let Turgeon tell the story:
Cowan is now a senior and the leading scorer for a team in contention to earn a No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. He's averaging a career-best 16.6 points per game and has a realistic chance to become just the seventh player in Maryland history to score 2,000 points in a career. If he does it, Cowan will be in a group with Juan Dixon, Greivis Vasquez, Len Bias, Albert King, Adrian Branch and John Lucas.
Getting there is a goal, on some level.
It has to be.
But after sinking three straight 3-pointers on three straight possessions late to help Maryland get an unlikely road win, Cowan swore his eyes are on something bigger than 2,000 points -- or even a victory at Michigan State.
"I still don't have a ring; my teammates still don't have a ring," Cowan said. "It's a good road win, though."
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