Wednesday night saw the struggling Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks come into East Lansing to take on the top-ranked Michigan State Spartans inside the Breslin Center.
On paper, it looked like a mismatch. The Hawks came in riding a three-game losing streak, while the Spartans were riding a nine-game winning streak and entered the week as the top team in the nation. In the early part of the game, the Hawks were able to keep the game close, and stay with the Spartans on both ends of the floor.
Then, the hometown team kicked it into a higher gear, got hot from three point range, and never looked back.
Michigan State essentially led from start to finish, and cruised past the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks by a final score of 78-35.
In the opening minutes, the teams would trade baskets, with Matt Costello getting the Spartans on the board first before the Hawks got on the board thanks to a Dominique Elliott jumper. With the score 2-2, that was the last time the Hawks and Spartans would be tied.
Maryland-Eastern Shore was never able to take a lead in the game, and weren’t able to get comfortable in their offensive sets. Once they got behind, they started to force three-point shots, which isn’t their strong suit to begin with.
With the score at 11-8, Bryn Forbes hit a pair of three-pointers to kick-start a 19-2 run for the Spartans that took any momentum away from the Hawks. Denzel Valentine also hit a pair of three-pointers, and scored 8 straight points in the run.
Credit the Hawks for fighting down the stretch in the opening 20 minutes. They were able to hold the Spartans off the scoreboard for the last 4:58 of the first half, but were unable to capitalize themselves. At the break, the Spartans held a commanding 33-16 lead, and showed no signs of slowing down.
Slow down they did not.
In the second half, the Spartans kept their foot firmly on the gas pedal, never allowing the Hawks to get closer than 16 points in the second 20 minutes. Marvin Clark, Jr. made the most of his playing time, scoring 5 straight points in the second half for the Green and White.
The Hawks simply had no answer on offense. While they did utilize most of the shot clock on each possession, they were simply unable to get open shots and make things happen. Credit the Michigan State defense for keeping the ball outside the paint, forcing the Hawks to pass around the three point arc looking for an open man.
Down the stretch, the Hawks went scoreless over the last 3:50 of the game, and the Spartans added on a few more points for extra measure. Michigan State cruised to the 78-35 victory, much to the delight of their home crowd.
When asked about the performance of his team, Coach Collins replied, “I expected more fight from my team. We will address these things in practice this week, and we will get better.”
For the Hawks, big man Dominique Elliott was the best player on the floor for the Hawks. He scored a team-high 11 points to go along with 3 rebounds in the loss. The Hawks tried to play through Elliott throughout the game, but he was unable to gain any ground against the talented forwards of Michigan State.
Sophomore guard Ryan Andino had a quiet night, scoring just 3 points in 23 minutes of floor time. Devin Martin chipped in with 7 points and 5 rebounds.
There was mutual respect among both teams following the game. Coach Collins called Denzel Valentine “the best player in the country, arguably, at least to me.”
Valentine led the way for the Spartans, recording his fourth double-double of the season, putting up 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in the win.
“Denzel was a little sick, last night and this morning at shoot-around,” said Coach Izzo. “He played good, but he was sick.”
Not a bad day’s work for Valentine, despite being under the weather.
Bryn Forbes scored a game-high 14 points, and shot 3-of-6 from three point range, while Eron Harris chipped in with 12 points of his own in 18 minutes of action.
There was also mutual respect shown between the coaches, as Coach Collins said “Michigan State is a team that can make a run at the Final Four.”
When it was Izzo’s turn to speak to the press, he commended Collins on being a great coach in the NCAA, and that the Hawks are a good team who didn’t have their best stuff on Wednesday.
The loss was the fourth-straight for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-8, 0-2), and gives them their second losing streak of four games this season. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Hawks, as they continue their 7-game road trip with a game against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday.
As for the Michigan State Spartans (10-0), they continue to play unselfish basketball, recording 25 assists on 27 made field goals. They continue to roll this season, and will look to keep their streak of strong play going against the Florida Gators on Saturday.