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Michigan State basketball: 3 keys to victory vs. Maryland in rematch

What do the Spartans need to do?



Michigan State basketball
© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball will see Maryland for the second time in a couple of weeks and here’s what it must do to win.

Round two between Michigan State basketball and Maryland is coming to the Breslin Center on Saturday evening. The Spartans narrowly beat the Terps the first time around, and they’re looking to get their sixth straight win over Maryland in this series.

Here are my three keys to the game for MSU to have a good chance of getting this win.

1. Play a full 40 minutes

This has been a struggle for Michigan State a lot this season. This problem, however, reached an all-time high in Michigan State’s first matchup against Maryland. The Spartans scored 44 first-half points, which honestly is more than you should expect in any single half. Everyone knew a step back was likely coming in the second half, but no one could’ve predicted how far the step back ended up being.

Michigan State went on to score just 17 second-half points, which thankfully was just barely enough to win. This isn’t the only game that this was a problem for the Spartans, though. Their most recent game against Michigan saw the Spartans play a brutal first half. They have also had brutal stretches in a lot of their games this year, and terrible halves against Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern.

With March on the horizon, MSU needs to start playing a full 40 minutes. This doesn’t mean that they need to play their A+ game all the time, because nobody does that. But they have to eliminate the long scoreless streaks and turn those bad stretches into mediocre stretches.

2. Keep Julian Reese off the glass

Julian Reese is one of Maryland’s best players and he had a huge impact in the first meeting between these teams. In the first matchup, he finished with a smooth double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds. But since this game, he has taken his game to the next level.

He is a legit scoring threat for the Terps, but where he’s most dangerous is rebounding the ball. In the two games since playing MSU, he has grabbed nine and 16 rebounds. This has brought his season average up to 10.1 rebounds per game, meaning he now is averaging a double-double.

As I said, Reese is a big threat offensively as seen by him scoring double figures in their last seven games straight. But I’m more concerned about his rebounding. He is relentless on the offensive glass, which creates easy buckets for him and second-chance opportunities for others. He also does an excellent job at limiting opponents to one shot on the defensive end of the floor, too.

Mady Sissoko is MSU’s best rebounder, and battling Reese down low has to be his top priority. If Mady can limit Reese on the glass, he did his job in this game no matter how much he scores.

3. Prioritize the transition game

Maryland is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten this season. The Terrapins are second-worst in the Big Ten in points per game, only averaging 70.3. But they are No. 1 in the Big Ten on defense only giving up 63.4 per game.

The Spartans weren’t impacted by their defense last time out in the first half, but the Terps suffocated the MSU offense in the second half. The best way I think Michigan State can counter this is by getting out in transition regularly.

Not only will this create some easy scoring opportunities, but it will also speed Maryland up to a pace they might not be comfortable playing at. Michigan State’s offense also tends to flow much better when the transition game is working, so that’s another benefit, too.

Even if speeding up the game causes Michigan State basketball to give up more points that’s fine in my eyes. The way I see it, the more points scored by both teams the better Michigan State’s chances are.

I still think this will be a close, low-scoring game, but I do give the Spartans the advantage. I think home-court will prevail in the end, and the Spartans will come away with another big victory, this time, however, with some more points on the board.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.


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