By Jack Rothenberg
Despite getting significantly outrebounded throughout the game, the Maryland Terrapins moved on to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament after defeating the UConn Huskies 63-54 Saturday night at the home court of the Purdue Boilermakers Mackey Arena. Through very deliberate offense and holding the Huskies to 32 percent shooting from the floor, the Terps were able to control the game on defense and built up a 14 point lead at one point in the second half on their way to the win.
In an astonishing first possession, UConn went up 3-0 after picking up 4 offensive rebounds. That was representative of how the contest would unfold, as the Huskies ended the first half with 18 offensive boards. However, Maryland’s defense stepped up once again and didn’t allow UConn to cash in on the majority of those opportunities holding the Huskies to just nine second chance points. The Huskies finished the half shooting just 23 percent, and 32 percent for the game. But most importantly the Terps adjusted on defense and started securing more defensive rebounds as the game progressed.
When the lights were shining bright, junior guard Eric Ayala (23 points) stepped up and had one of his best games as a Terp. He scored eight of Maryland’s first 10 points providing an early 10-7 lead. After UConn gained a 1 point lead on a three pointer by Jalen Gaffeny, Ayala answered with a three pointer which jump started a 15-3 run propelling the Terps to a 33-22 lead at halftime.
On most possessions, Maryland walked the ball up the court and executed their offensive possessions to perfection. Sophomore forward Donta Scott (12 points) and junior guard Aaron Wiggins (14 points) both had big “rack attacks” in the second half as a result of the highly efficient offensive play.
Wiggins did most of his damage from beyond the arc against the Huskies, knocking down four of his six threes, most coming at very opportunistic moments. The Terps made nine threes as a team, six in the first half, which was key to holding onto their double-digit lead.
Maryland’s defense has always stemmed from senior guard Darryl Morsell, and against the Huskies he drew the matchup against their best offensive player sophomore guard James Bouknight. Even though Scott and Wiggins got their chances to guard Bouknight due to ball screens and switches, Morsell and crew limited him to 15 points on 6 for 16 shooting.
In the final four minutes both Morsell and Wiggins fouled out, opening the door for UConn, but solid free throw shooting and a large enough lead got the job done for Maryland. The Terps will now take on the No. 2 seed and SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the second round on Monday night. Alabama, which enters the game on a seven game winning streak and a 25-6 record is an exceptional defensive team that shoots a boatload of threes and will be a tough matchup for the Terps.
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