COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) While Maryland coach Brenda Frese kept summoning fresh players from her bench, Suzy Merchant could only jealously watch and shrug her shoulders.
Merchant had only seven bodies to choose from, including two walk-on starters, which goes a long way toward explaining why the No. 7 Terrapins breezed past injury-riddled Michigan State 85-56 on Thursday night.
Laurin Mincy scored 17 for Maryland (16-2, 7-0 Big Ten) which had five players reach double figures.
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”I thought our depth – to be able to send waves in this game – was really important, to where we could wear Michigan State down,” Frese said. ”That’s going to be a big plus for us moving forward, to be able to use the depth that we have.”
The Spartans (9-10, 1-7) hung in there for 20 minutes. But Maryland opened the second half with a 10-2 run to extend an 11-point lead to 47-28, and Michigan State had no response.
”We knew it was going to be difficult coming in here,” Merchant said, ”but seven kids and a lot of injuries makes it difficult, especially the way they play.”
In its first season in the Big Ten after a 61-year run in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland is the lone unbeaten team in league play.
”It doesn’t mean a lot if we don’t continue it,” Frese said. ”So we have to continue to stay humble and hungry.”
Maryland made 50 percent of its field goal attempts and limited the Spartans to 3-for-24 shooting from beyond the arc.
”That’s a good team, by far the best in the league,” Merchant said.
Aerial Powers had 28 points and 16 rebounds for the Spartans, but received very little help.
”She’s doing everything she can, but every eye on the gym is on her,” Merchant said. ”We need a couple more people to play with her enthusiasm.”
The Spartans were ranked in the Top 25 through the final week of December, but they’ve lost eight of 10 to put their run of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in serious jeopardy.
Mincy, a senior guard, went 7 for 13 from the floor. She contributed a three-point play and a layup to the 10-2 spurt to start of the second half.
”I thought it was very important,” Mincy said. ”We knew they would keep fighting in the second half, so we wanted to give them no more life.”
”I think this is the first night we sort of died,” Merchant said. ”We can be a dangerous team some nights, but we’ve got to put it all together.”
Maryland missed six of its first seven shots and was outrebounded 10-2 in falling behind 8-3. It was 11-7 before Brionna Jones scored five points in a 13-2 run that put the Terrapins ahead for good.
The Spartans exercised patience during most of their possessions, which slowed down the pace and helped them close to 25-22 with 5:45 left in the half.
Maryland then peeled off 10 straight points, including three straight baskets by reserve Kiara Leslie, for a 13-point cushion.
Powers and Becca Mills combined for 19 of Michigan State’s 26 first-half points.
Michigan State: The Spartans fell to 0-4 against Maryland, including a defeat in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament. … Michigan State is 21-36 against ranked opponents in Merchant’s seven-plus seasons, including 5-16 on the road.
Maryland: The Terrapins are 183-32 at home under Frese, who arrived in 2002. Maryland is 9-2 at home against Big Ten teams during that stretch, the last defeat coming against Ohio State in 2003.
Michigan State: Tori Jankoska had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Mills finished with 11 points.
Maryland: Malina Howard scored 10, the first time since Nov. 19 the starting forward reached double figures.