INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s only the Big Ten tournament semifinals, but Maryland and Michigan State played a championship-level game Saturday. The Spartans emerged with a 64-61 victory and advanced to face Purdue for the title on Sunday.
The Terrapins (25-8), after a shaky finish in the quarterfinals, allowing a Nebraska rally, still proved to be NCAA tournament-ready with their defensive showing. They gave up 86 points to the Cornhuskers, but held the Spartans (28-5) to just 28 percent shooting in the second half a day later.
For these teams to have played only once during the season, they were awfully chippy to start the game. Just 90 seconds in, Maryland’s Jake Layman and Michigan State’s Eron Harris got tangled up and a double-technical foul was given because of their pushing and shoving.
The chippiness eventually affected the Terps more when Layman received his second foul and was limited to just 11 minutes in the first half and had just two first-half points.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo immediately replaced Harris in the lineup after the technical, but he bounced back nicely, scoring eight points in the first half, including two 3-pointers. However, Harris got in foul trouble, too, picking up his fourth with eight minutes left.
It wasn’t the last instance of spirited play. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was given a technical while pleading that a foul should have been called on a previous possession.
Sulaimon vs. Valentine
Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon was matched against Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine for most of the game. When Sulaimon played at Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski called him one of their best on-ball defenders and he showed why against the Spartans.
Valentine’s first make from the field was the final basket of the first half -- to the chagrin of Turgeon, who argued to no avail that Valentine created the space to shoot by pushing off.
Even as Sulaimon kept Valentine from getting clean looks, he couldn’t stop him from having an impact on the game. Valentine had eight of his game-high 10 assists in the first half.
Forbes not a factor
Michigan State’s Bryn Forbes, who could finish the season with a school record for made 3-pointers, was held without a 3 for just the fourth time this season. Forbes entered the game leading the nation by shooting 50.2 percent from beyond the arc, but was 0-for-4 from downtown against the Terps.
Here’s why it didn’t matter, though: The Spartans proved they have other shooters who might not have the number of attempts that Forbes has, but they have good accuracy, too. Harris, who shoots 42 percent from 3-point range, was 2-for-3. Alvin Ellis III, who shoots 37 percent, and Valentine, who shoots 44 percent, were both 2-for-5. Marvin Clark Jr., who shoots 38 percent, and Matt McQuaid, who shoots 39 percent, made one 3-pointer each.