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No. 8 Maryland uses stifling defense to beat Spartans 71-55

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 8 Maryland has demonstrated its scoring prowess all season.

If the Terrapins keep playing defense the way they did Friday, there's no telling how far the Big Ten regular-season champs can go.

Kaila Charles scored 16 points in the second half, finished with 21 and helped her teammates allow only seven second-half baskets in a 71-55 victory over ninth-seeded Michigan State in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

"To hold a team so talented like Michigan State defensively, I think is huge," coach Brenda Frese said. "Offensively we feel like we have a lot of weapons that we're able to be able to go to. But I thought our defense, holding them to just 18 field goals, I thought was critical to our success."

Maryland's next test comes in the first of two semifinal games Saturday, when it faces Michigan.

And if this opener is any indication, the Terrapins could dominate the rest of this weekend in Indianapolis. Again.

Stephanie Jones delivered early scoring punches before finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Charles, meanwhile, delivered the decisive blows in the second half and wound up with 10 rebounds. Both got some extra rest, too, as the Terrapins (27-3) won for the 12th time in 13 games and avenged a 17-point loss earlier this season.

The biggest difference: Maryland's almost impenetrable defense.

It forced the Spartans into 6-of-26 shooting to open the game and limited them to 2 of 16 during a dismal third quarter. During one 11 1/2-minute stretch in the second half that extended into the fourth quarter, Michigan State (20-11) managed only one basket.

Coach Suzy Merchant has seen it before, with the Spartans losing for the fifth time in their last eight games.

"I just want to know if we can play that third quarter over," Merchant said. "Just give Maryland credit. I thought they just definitely had a little more edge to them."

It was all Maryland needed.

After taking a 34-19 lead late in the first half, the Spartans closed the half on a 12-1 run. Nia Clouden's layup to start the third quarter got Michigan State within 35-33, but then Charles seized control in the middle and the game turned.

Maryland scored the next 11 points and closed the third quarter on a 10-4 spurt that made it 60-41.

Michigan State couldn't get closer than 19 until the final minutes.

"What I love about this team is yesterday this is who they wanted to play," Frese said. "They're just extremely competitive. When they learn lessons, they take those lessons and want to get better, and I thought they were able to do that today."

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Yes, the Spartans' shooters struggled. But for one short stretch, Michigan State reminded everyone just how well it's capable of playing. With wins over Oregon, Maryland, Big Ten runner-up Iowa and Minnesota plus a narrow loss to North Carolina State and two other losses against ranked opponents on the resume, the Spartans should be a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland: It took a half for the Terrapins to really find their groove but once they did, Michigan State never had a chance. Maryland improved to 9-1 all-time in Indy, 12-1 all-time in Big Ten tourney play and made a strong statement by avenging one of its three losses this season.

STAT PACK

Michigan State: Clouden and Shay Colley each scored 12 points. ... After shooting 29 percent in the first half, the Spartans were 7 of 29 in the second. They were 4 of 18 on 3-pointers. ... Michigan State was outrebounded 45-32.

Maryland: Blair Watson was the only other Terrapin to reach double figures. She had 11 points. ... The Terrapins made 9 of 11 shots in the third quarter (82 percent). ... The Terrapins won easily despite 20 turnovers.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: Awaits its postseason fate.

Maryland: Faces fourth-seeded Michigan, a 73-65 double overtime winner over Wisconsin, on Saturday.

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Updated March 8, 2019

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