UConn men's basketball loses to Maryland in 2021 NCAA Tournament First Round
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UConn falls to Maryland in NCAA Tournament First Round

Earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament is one thing, but the UConn Huskies still have a ways to go if they want to survive in the Big Dance.

This was quite clear after No. 10 Maryland trumped the seventh-seeded Huskies 63-54 during NCAA Tournament first-round action on Saturday night.

“You're gutted here, right now,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “Listen, really disappointed. This wasn’t how I envisioned us losing this one.”

The Terps (17-13) advance to the Round of 32 where they'll take on No. 2 Alabama, who beat No. 15 Iona 68-55 in their first-round game.

“It’s do or die at this point,” said Mayland guard Eric Ayala, who scored a game-high 23 points. “You've got to leave it all out there and empty the tank. “I wasn't ready to go home today.”

UConn (15-8) was led by 15 points from James Bouknight and Jalen Gaffney’s 12.

The loss was likely Bouknight’s final game for UConn as the sophomore is expected to be a top-15 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

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It was a nightmare first half for the Huskies, who made just 9 of 39 shots and were outscored 15-3 in the final 7:32. Maryland led 33-22 at the break after making 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

UConn held an 18-2 edge on offensive boards and 28-15 overall, but it didn’t translate into much offense for the Huskies before halftime.

“It’s really frustrating when you get a lot of offensive rebounds and not really any points from it,” said senior Isaiah Whaley, who finished with six points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and two steals for UConn.

Bouknight was 3 of 11 from the field and the Huskies tied a season-low with 22 points in a half.

“Overall, as a group, we showed a lack of experience in a game like this,” Hurley said.

The Huskies tried to make a run in the second half but failed to make much of a dent in the Terps’ lead with its lackluster offense.

UConn shot just 32.3 percent from the field overall and was only 5 of 12 from the foul line. The Huskies went 7-for-23 on 3-pointers and never cut the lead below five, which came on a Bouknight jumper with 2:53 remaining to make it 53-48

“We battled and we played the way we did all year,” Hurley said. “I wish we would have guarded better and obviously we dug that hole.”

One of the most frustrating parts for the Huskies was not cashing on the offensive glass. They scored just 11 points on 22 offensive boards.

“When you get 18 rebounds in the first half, and you miss that amount of layups at the rim, I think it had a demoralizing effect on us,” Hurley said.