No. 10 Maryland is back in the round of 32 after taking down a surging No. 7 UConn team 63-54 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Mackey Arena on Saturday.
Huskies guard James Bouknight had been one of the most electric players in college basketball all season but was unable to carry his team further than one appearance as UConn returned to the tournament for the first time since 2016.
Head coach Dan Hurley finally got a chance to lead the Huskies into the field of 68 after his 19-win team didn't get a chance to perform last year because of the pandemic, but they couldn't muster up a win as Maryland's Eric Ayala went for 23 points in the win.
Terps head coach Mark Turgeon moves to 5-4 in the NCAA tournament since taking over the program in 2011. He'll look to further improve that record on Monday against a No. 2 Alabama team that struggled against Iona before a late run gave them a 68-55 victory.
Eric Ayala, G, Maryland Terrapins: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Aaron Wiggins, G, Maryland Terrapins: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 three-pointers
James Bouknight, G, UConn Huskies: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
R.J. Cole, G, UConn Huskies: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Terps Heat Up From Three
Mackey Arena tends to be a house of horrors for visiting Big Ten opponents.
That was certainly the case when Maryland lost at Purdue by three points after struggling to get shots to fall anywhere from the floor, but particularly from behind the arc. The Terps made just 35.7 percent of their threes in a three-point loss to the Boilermakers in December.
They wouldn't let the same issue cost them a win in the NCAA tournament.
Maryland went 9-of-18 from deep with Ayala and Aaron Wiggins combining for seven of their team's makes.
Against a UConn team that struggles to score when Bouknight isn't at his best, it was more than enough to push the Terps into the second round. And they'll need to keep that same energy from deep against an Alabama team that can score as quickly and efficiently as any team in the nation.
But that's Monday's problem.
Saturday was all about taking advantage of UConn's mistakes, putting the Huskies at a 14-point deficit early and holding on to a late lead by going 10-of-14 from the free-throw line.
With four ranked victories on their resume heading into March, the Terps have proved opponents will need to play perfect against them to avoid an upset. UConn learned that all too late, and there was little it could do about it.
Bouknight, Huskies Doomed By Cold Start
There are some stats that just look impossible this time of year. UConn was on the wrong side of a few of them early Saturday.
In a disastrous first half, the Huskies scored just 22 points on 39 field goals despite waxing Maryland on the glass 28-15 with 18 offensive boards through 20 minutes. To work that hard at rebounding with little to show for it was nothing less than demoralizing. Especially when most of those misses were layups or putbacks right at the rim.
Making matters worse, Bouknight couldn't find his shot at all early on. The NBA prospect started the night 1-of-6 from the floor with two points over the first eight minutes, and things didn't improve much outside of a few highlight-reel plays.
Bouknight finished 6-of-16 with 15 points but couldn't come through with much-needed free throws as the Huskies mounted a late comeback, going 2-of-6 from the line while the team as a whole finished 5-of-12 from the stripe.
Even after pulling within two possessions with less than two minutes to play, it rarely felt like Maryland wasn't maintaining control of the game. UConn would have to prove it could make Maryland pay for the same type of mistakes the Terps took advantage of all night.
The Huskies were unable to do so and will have the next few months to figure out how to get better.
Maryland moves on to face No. 2 Alabama on Monday. No tipoff time has been announced as of Saturday evening.
This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.
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