Having lost three straight games for the first time in nine seasons, No. 11 Michigan State entered Saturday’s game against No. 7 Maryland in dire need of a win. In spots such as these a team expects their best and most experienced players to step forward, and that’s exactly what happened in the Spartans’ 74-65 win over the Terrapins at the Breslin Center.
Sure, seniors Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes led the way offensively, with Valentine all over the stat sheet with 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Forbes scoring a game-high 25 points. But the contributions of another senior, forward Matt Costello, cannot be overlooked.
Playing against Maryland’s talented front line Costello more than held his own, finishing the game with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. And he did all of this on an ankle that was less than 100 percent — he was in a boot on Thursday — outplaying Maryland’s interior tandem of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone. Michigan State entered the game in need of not only a win but an emotional spark as well, and Costello was the one who provided that boost.
Michigan State’s season wasn’t on the line by any stretch of the imagination; there are still plenty of games to be played and this is a group still getting used to playing without starting point guard Tum Tum Nairn. But after their loss to Nebraska, playing with a lack of emotion that was surprising for a Tom Izzo-coached team, there was a call that had to be answered. And Michigan State managed to get the job done, with the players who are expected to lead the way doing just that.
Maryland will be fine moving forward. Rasheed Sulaimon struggled offensively, shooting 2-for-11 from the field, and the same goes for Stone as he scored just six points off the bench. But Melo Trimble, who entered the game in a slump, got going and finished with 24 points. That should only help him moving forward, and regardless of what happens when it comes to the Big Ten regular season title there’s no denying that Mark Turgeon’s team has the personnel needed to make a run deep into March and even to early April.
Saturday night was about Michigan State more than anything. A program that’s been lauded for its toughness and its fight needed to display those attributes against a high-level opponent, and they managed to do just that. Forbes and Valentine may have produced the most noteworthy stat lines but it was Matt Costello who set the tone, enabling the Spartans to pick up a much-needed victory.
Not to mention a bear-hug, a butt-slap and a head-rub for his coach on the way off the floor: