INDIANAPOLIS — They say defense wins championships. Well, at least a lack of offense doesn't seem to lose them.
Michigan State shot just 28.6 percent and scored only 23 points in the second half but somehow pulled out a 64-61 victory over Maryland on Saturday to advance to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans were limited by a strong defensive effort by the Terps, who also struggled offensively over the final 20 minutes, shooting just 28 percent and going just 2-for-11 from 3-point range as well as going more than 10 minutes between made baskets down the stretch.
That grotesque offensive display was at least remedied by a thrilling finish. Maryland battled back from a deficit that was at double digits in the first half and as big as eight inside of 12 minutes to play, bursting out on an 8-0 run around the midway point of the period. Jake Layman hit a 3, which was followed up by a Diamond Stone bucket. Then Melo Trimble — who started the game 0-for-9 from the field — buried a game-tying triple to knot the score at 53 with 10 minutes left. Three and a half minutes later, a pair of Robert Carter free throws gave the Terps their first lead since starting things 2-0. That lead was rather short lived, though, as Deyonta Davis put the Spartans right back in front with a dunk.
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From their go-ahead free throws, the Terps didn't score for almost six minutes, Layman's free throws with about a minute remaining the first points. That brought Maryland within one, and the Terps had a chance to take the lead after a Michigan State turnover. But Davis swatted away a Stone shot, a huge play that gave the Spartans the ball and a trip to free throw line, where Denzel Valentine buried both to make it 62-59 with 21 seconds to play. Trimble answered with a layup, Maryland's first made basket in more than 10 minutes, and Valentine missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the Terps a chance to win. But Trimble's layup try was way off, and Valentine then hit two free throws to put the game away with less than a second remaining.
Maryland shot just 33.3 percent from the field on the day, with Michigan State shooting 42 percent. The Spartans and Terps each hit eight 3-pointers, but the Spartans had the edge in almost every other statistical category, scoring 14 points off turnovers, 24 points in the paint and getting 18 points from their bench.
Valentine led Michigan State with 18 points, also handing out 10 assists and grabbing seven rebounds. Matt Costello was the only other Spartan in double figures with 10 points. Carter's 18 points led Maryland, with Trimble adding 11. No one shot very well, with Valentine going 4-for-12 from the field and the Maryland duo of Trimble and Layman going 5-for-25 from the field.
Michigan State will take on Purdue in Sunday's Big Ten Championship Game, and the Spartans would likely lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a win.
Maryland, which lost for the fifth time in its last eight games, will await its NCAA tournament seed.