First it was Matt McQuaid — twice. Then it was Gabe Brown. Next thing you know, Kenny Goins was joining the party, a 3-point jamboree in East Lansing, Michigan, that aided No. 6 Michigan State to a 69-55 blowout win over Maryland on Monday night, further cushioning its lead atop the Big Ten standings. This was a win that undoubtedly carries some weight for Sparty, one that will strengthen their case for a 1-seed come March. Most of all, though, this was an emphatic statement: The Big Ten runs through East Lansing.

That early 3-point barrage helped the Spartans (17-2, 7-0 Big Ten) build a lead that proved insurmountable for the once-surging Terps; Maryland never got enough push to cut into the lead, which never fell past double digits in the second half and Michigan State never was in danger of falling at home.

Michigan State last lost at home one year and eight days ago, and Maryland was thought to be a real threat to end that 14-game home win streak, along with its running 11-game win streak overall dating back to November. The Terps came in winners of seven straight, including a decisive 75-61 road win over Ohio State all of three days ago. They looked for real. And maybe they still are. Quick turnarounds with travel, game-planning and all that goes into game prep can be a nightmare. Perhaps Michigan State caught Maryland on the right night.

But on this night, it was all Michigan State, flexing its ever-balanced attack and proving it is the class of the league, along with Michigan — again. Five Spartans finished in double figures, led by Cassius Winston and Kenny Goins’ 14 points. And Joshua Langford, Tom Izzo’s third-leading scorer? He didn’t play, still working his way back from injury. Even a shorthanded Spartans team figures to be the favorite — or co-favorite, at the least — to win the league.

As for Maryland, this is just its first loss since mid-December and second loss overall in the Big Ten. The Terrapins are still in better-than-expected shape, disappointing performance aside. A steady diet of bad decision-making — 12 turnovers against Sparty — coupled with a 21-of-61 mark from the field ultimately doomed them on this night, but they remain on track to get back to the Big Dance. They get a floundering Illinois team on Saturday and Northwestern at home three days later before a two-game road stand against Wisconsin and Nebraska. Wins in two of the next four should be in order — and no team in the conference is more capable of providing a morale-booster than the lowly Illini, who have lost six of seven and appear headed for the league’s basement.

For Michigan State to do what it did Monday is impressive on its own; Maryland is loaded with future NBA talent and came in with gobs of momentum. But for Michigan State to do what it did, only a year removed from losing two lottery picks in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges, makes its performance all the more impressive.

This Sparty team, without a projected first-round pick or surefire future NBA star, is gunning for elite status only a season removed from a 30-5 campaign. This Sparty team is for real, and on Monday, this Sparty team proved ready to defend its Big Ten crown and sent a statement across the league.


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