“It’s do-or-die at this level,” Ayala mentioned. “You’ve obtained to go away all of it on the market. Empty the tank. I wasn’t able to go residence right now.”
After the Tenth-seeded Terps held a double-digit lead for almost your entire second half, the Huskies reduce Maryland’s result in seven factors with 5:41 remaining. All season, Maryland has struggled by way of frequent scoring droughts, and the Terps appeared as if they had been about to fall into a type of ruts on the most inopportune time towards the seventh-seeded Huskies. However Maryland survived at Mackey Enviornment, conducting the only mission of every recreation in March.
James Bouknight, Connecticut’s standout guard and a projected lottery choose within the NBA draft, scored on a layup with lower than three minutes to go, winnowing Maryland’s result in 53-48. Ayala, who powered the Terps for a lot of the night, made a pair of free throws with 2:36 left to supply some reduction. Ayala then grabbed maybe the night time’s most vital rebound when Bouknight missed his first free throw on a one-and-one.
“As a basketball participant, it’s laborious to not take every alternative as a blessing and perceive what’s at stake,” Ayala mentioned. “ … Final 12 months it was taken away from us, and we had a fantastic staff final 12 months. So coming into this recreation, I felt like I owe my effort and my vitality and every thing to basketball, to simply come out right here and compete.”
Darryl Morsell, the Terps’ senior chief and defensive maestro, knocked down a pair of pictures from the foul line to make the climb again for the Huskies a lot too steep. Morsell fouled out with 1:50 to go, after recording seven factors, seven rebounds and 4 assists. By then, he had already helped information the Terps (17-13) to a event win that sends them to face No. 2 seed Alabama within the second spherical Monday.
With out Morsell, the Terps wanted to navigate Connecticut’s strain within the closing moments and keep cool from the free throw line. They delivered.
Ayala, the junior guard who has taken significant strides throughout his time in School Park, had a game-high 23 factors and supplied the early spark that helped Maryland seize management. He made robust layups, drew fouls and made 3 of 5 makes an attempt from three-point vary.
Ayala’s teammates supplied significant contributions, none extra so than Wiggins. The junior continued his late surge, making 4 of 6 pictures from behind the arc en path to 14 factors. Sophomore ahead Donta Scott had his greatest offensive output since late January with 12 factors. When the Huskies reduce Maryland’s result in six factors with 1:34 to go, sophomore guard Hakim Hart made a key layup.
Bouknight, who entered the event averaging 19 factors, had bother all night time coping with Morsell. Maryland’s chief, lately named the Massive Ten’s defensive participant of the 12 months, had the first job of guarding Bouknight, who was held to a team-high 15 factors on 6-for-16 capturing. Connecticut scored a season-low 54 factors.
“All of us caught collectively,” Coach Mark Turgeon mentioned. “We’ve develop into extremely tough-minded and hard bodily. And we actually lock in on protection. It’s the one probability we now have. If we don’t guard, we now have no probability.”
Ayala fueled the Terps early, attacking the rim and scoring 14 factors throughout the first 13 minutes. He made 4 of his first 5 subject purpose makes an attempt to assist the Terps construct an early lead because the Huskies shot simply 23.1 % within the first half. Connecticut (15-8) managed to remain within the recreation due to 18 offensive rebounds within the opening 20 minutes. Despite the fact that the Huskies’ first 9 factors had been second-chance factors, they didn’t capitalize on any of their offensive rebounds within the closing 12 minutes of the primary half.
Connecticut, among the finest offensive rebounding groups within the event, dominated the glass early. Maryland went on a 10-0 run late within the first half earlier than Tyler Polley halted that spurt with a three-pointer. The Terps performed the ultimate 4 minutes earlier than halftime with Ayala on the bench, however Morsell’s three-pointer and Scott’s layup helped keep the staff’s offensive assault. The Terps headed to the locker room with a 33-22 benefit, their first double-digit lead of the night time.
Maryland hadn’t earned a double-digit seed within the NCAA tournament since 2009, three years earlier than Turgeon took over as coach. The Terps had been slim underdogs towards the Huskies, and the small crowd at Mackey Enviornment leaned in Connecticut’s favor. Turgeon mentioned he teased his staff whereas in Indianapolis with feedback about how the decrease seeds have smaller assembly rooms and longer walks to the observe courts.
With Maryland’s recreation on the second day of the primary spherical, Ayala mentioned he observed how there have been abruptly fewer groups across the motels and the observe facility. However when the Terps had their flip to play eventually, Maryland outperformed its seed and prolonged its season.
“We’ve form of overachieved all of our expectations,” Turgeon mentioned, “and continued to take action.”