Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
Published 10:20 p.m. ET Feb. 29, 2020 | Updated 11:36 p.m. ET Feb. 29, 2020
Tom Izzo saw ‘fire from the opening get-go’ in Michigan State’s impressive 78-66 win over No. 8 Maryland in College Park, Md. on Feb. 29, 2020.
Detroit Free Press
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – This time, Michigan State basketball wouldn’t let Maryland get back into it.
Not after stunning the Terrapins from the start. Not after withstanding every punch thrown. Not after hitting big shots to quell every run.
And the 24th-ranked Spartans gave themselves a chance at earning a possible share of a third straight Big Ten title.
They’d still need some help, but Cassius Winston led four players in double figures with 20 points and had six assists in a 78-66 victory over No. 8 Maryland on Saturday at Xfinity Center.
MSU (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten), now a game behind the Terrapins in the standings, travels to Penn State on Tuesday, then close out the regular season at 4:30 p.m. next Sunday against Ohio State at Breslin Center.
Maryland (23-6, 13-5) heads to Rutgers on Tuesday, then hosts Michigan at noon next Sunday.
Xavier Tillman Sr. had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, Malik Hall added 16 points and six rebounds, Rocket Watts added 13 points as the Spartans won for the fourth time in their past five games.
Jalen Smith ahd 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Anthony Cowan added 13 points for Maryland, which had won 10 of 11.
The Spartans gave up the final 14 points of their 67-60 home loss to Maryland on Feb. 15. They quickly erased those bad memories Saturday night.
MSU scored the first nine points, with a Aaron Henry putback of his own miss and pair of Hall layups through contact, followed by a Watts 3-pointer that prompted Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to burn a timeout just 2:16 in to the game.
Henry and Hall combined for 11 points as MSU opened on a 17-5 run, making seven straight shots after Henry’s opening miss.
Game of runs
But the Terps, as they did in the second half at Minnesota on Wednesday, recovered. Their 13-2 answering burst quickly pulled them close, and they tied the Spartans at 23 with a Ricky Lindo 3-pointer at the midpoint of the first half.
It became a battle of runs from there. MSU answered with nine straight points over a 6-minute span, which included nearly 4½ combined scoreless minutes. Winston had five straight points in that run, and Tillman had the other four.
Maryland answered with a pair of Cowan buckets, but Kyle Ahrens hit his second 3-pointer of the half to slow the momentum. Then Winston used an English-curled bounce pass to Tillman for a layup with a little more than a minute left to put MSU back ahead by eight.
But Winston wasn’t finished. With 1.9 seconds to play, he caught an inbound pass in front of MSU’s bench, took one dribble and two long strides and let the ball fly. Nothing but net from 60 feet away, sending the Spartans bounding into the locker room leading 40-29.
Winston had 13 points at half on 4 of 5 shooting, including 3 of 4 from deep. Hall had seven points and four rebounds, while Tillman had six points and five boards as MSU shot 48.4% in the half.
To open the second half, MSU went on another strong spurt. Watts hit a jumper, Henry had a three-point play, Winston hit another 3, and Hall scored seven straight, including a 3-pointer, as the Spartans built a 61-43, with 13:03 remaining.
Maryland cut it to single digits with an 8-0 run before Watts buried a 3-pointer and a tough pull-up jumper to give MSU some cushion.
The Terps would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way, and Winston’s four-point play with 4:24 left proved to be the dagger.