Maryland (14-4), one of the teams tied for fourth, faces a pivotal stretch with back-to-back road games against Ohio State and MI and a home game against Minnesota. It wasn't just a point guard issue either as Bridges had four turnovers trying to create off the bounce and Nick Ward had three because of effective double teams by the Wolverines.
"We're the ones that are supposed to be out-toughing people. To do it on their home floor - Maryland hasn't been kind to us", Merchant said.
Behind a career-high 27 points from Moritz Wagner, the Wolverines knocked off No. 4 Michigan State, 82-72, Saturday at the Breslin Center, their second straight victory in the series and first on the road since 2014.
Although Michigan State beats Michigan in the statistics, this is a big rivalry game and the Wolverines are coming off a 69-70 loss at home against No. 5 Purdue.
"Our program is traditionally built on toughness and that is something that we are lacking right now", Spartans forward Gavin Schilling said. We can go out and win this game. The over-aggression on defense just to match the Spartans' intensity will backfire at times for the Wolverines as it'll give Michigan State some easy buckets.
Bridges missed his first five shots and then made only one of two free throws with eight seconds left with a chance to give Michigan State the lead.More news: And much needed - win for the Wild
When Michigan State started going on run on Saturday afternoon, Michigan always had an answer.
This rivalry is close in all-time matchups with Michigan State taking the 64-60 edge.
"I had to tell him that being a good teammate means that you help the team win and if you're the best player you've got to help this team win by being a little more aggressive", said. The upside to that is Michigan State's interior defense and rim protection is among the best in the country, but the downside is that the Spartans struggle to keep guards in front of them or to deal with mobile big men like Wagner.
I thought we got caught up in the officiating, they just let them play. "... As long as we come out there and play our basketball and play as hard as we can, we can win some games". Brianna Fraser led Maryland's team in scoring with 17 points, while shooting 55.6% from the field (making 5 of 9 attempts). That commonality makes this an important game for both teams in terms of the Big Ten race.
Michigan State's biggest problem all season is that it doesn't value possessions or take care of the basketball. It comes with a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get $25 off your first month if you enter promo code "BDAY2017".