On Saturday, the Big Ten was set for one of its biggest games of the season. ESPN's College Gameday was in town, two ranked teams were matching up, and one of the Big Ten's best venues. Add in that the Maryland Terrapins were trying to score the team's first marquee win and the Michigan State Spartans were in the midst of a three-game skid and it's easy to see why both sides desperately needed a win.
Eventually, Michigan State was able to pull away and grab a 74-65 win over the Terps. Undoubtedly, the game lived up to the hype. It was tight from start to finish and with less than a minute remaining, Michigan State clung to just a 66-63 lead. All told, the Spartans did eventually find a way to win.
With that, let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Tom Izzo Still Gets The Job Done.
Over the last few games, there have been a lot of questions about the Spartans. Was the team overrated earlier in the year? Was Denzel Valentine fully healthy? Could the team get back on track and reach the Final Four yet again? Fans were getting restless and wondering when the team could recover from its stumble.
Well, fans got their answers on Saturday in a big way.
Against a team ranked in the top 10, the Spartans were able to come up with a huge win. Nobody thought Michigan State was going to collapse for the rest of the season, but there was a lot of uncertainty about the team. To be able to come out and beat a team like Maryland should put those concerns to rest.
This really isn't anything new with Izzo either. During his tenure, fans have seen some ups and downs, but usually the ups last a lot longer than the downs. This Michigan State team is finally starting to get back on track and scored its first major victory since early December.
2. Matt Costello Is Showing Senior Leadership.
The one lasting image of this game will undoubtedly be senior forward Matt Costello's excitement and emotional reactions late in the game. It was a great example of what makes college basketball so great and so much fun. A role player on a team coming up big when his team needed it most.
Matt Costello gives Tom Izzo a spin-a-rama. https://t.co/jE8j1jxwJc— AlwaysSunnyInDetroit (@Tim_Goergen) January 24, 2016
What's even more significant about Costello's 15 points and 12 rebounds on the night is that they came despite injury. Following the game, Izzo told reporters that Costello had missed the last three days of practice and didn't even participate in walk throughs heading into the game. Nonetheless, he came up huge.
Michigan State punished Maryland inside all night and Costello was a huge piece of that. Whether it was setting screens, boxing out, or slowing down Damonte Dodd and Diamond Stone, he got the job done. If Costello can continue to do the "dirty work" inside, the Spartans will be tough to beat.
3. Maryland Needs To Improve Its Pick and Roll Defense.
The Terps certainly fought well in the game, but one of the most pressing issues all night was Maryland's underwhelming defense against the pick and roll. Too often, a big man would be brought out to help and either get out of position or end up forcing unfortunate switches behind him.
Now, not many teams will have a Denzel Valentine to use in these situations, but Maryland is going to have to improve in this area if it's going to reach its lofty preseason goals. Particularly, Diamond Stone has to get better when hedging and when bringing pressure on the ballhandler. At one point, he moved out on Valentine, but left Costello open for an easy drive and pass for a hoop. It's an area that really could use some work.
4. Thursday Is HUGE For Maryland.
With the loss, Maryland dropped to 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. Certainly not terrible record, but the one thing that continues to be absent from Maryland's resume is a marquee win. According to KenPom, the Terps still don't have a win over a top 30 team and have only beaten two teams in the top 50.
Not exactly great for a team ranked in the top 10.
This Thursday, the Terps are going to host a really good Iowa team at home and have a chance to score that win the team so desperately needs. Otherwise, the questions about Maryland are going to get much deeper. The rumblings about Maryland potentially being overrated are already starting to pop up and if the Terps aren't able to take down the Hawkeyes, it's hard to think those stop anytime soon.
It was a huge night in East Lansing for the Spartans. The team finally got back and track and looks like it could be set to make some real noise in the Big Ten over the next few weeks. Maryland will have to hope that it can finally get that elusive marquee win against Iowa on Thursday.