BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Maryland star Alyssa Thomas believes the future will be bright for her team.
The present is a bit rough. The Terrapins didn't have enough offense or healthy bodies to stay with UConn, losing 76-50 in the Bridgeport regional semifinals on Saturday.
Maryland had been plagued by injuries all season, losing three players to ACL injuries, including the expected starting backcourt, guards Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy.
The Terps (26-8) were down to six healthy players and were outscored by UConn's bench 25-0.
"Next year we'll have plenty of numbers, a full roster," said Thomas, who finished with 13 points to lead Maryland.
"Not to take away from this season, but looking forward to next season, we're going to be a tough team to stop."
Thomas scored 29 and 28 points in the first two games of the tournament, but struggled against UConn. She only had six points when the teams met in December — a 15-point UConn win.
"I asked her to do more than any player in the country," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "She's our leader and moving forward as a senior she'll set the tone for this team."
Freshmen Breanna Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each scored 17 as UConn (32-4) advanced to its eighth straight regional final.
Stewart and classmates Moriah Jefferson (10 points) and Morgan Tuck (eight points) combined for 35 points. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
"I think we were 16 for 28 from the floor, our freshmen," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "One turnover between the three of them. I thought they were the key to the game today for sure."
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.
"We got in a nice offensive flow," she said. "Once the transition game came, then the offensive flow was right there."
Her layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38.
"They didn't play like freshmen at all," center Stefanie Dolson said. "They came out confident and ready to play. They knew what they needed to do for our team and what they can do."
Chloe Pavlech and Tianna Hawkins each had 11 points for the Terps in Hawkins' final game at Maryland.
"We are going to miss Tianna here," Frese said. "Everything she's meant to our team and program. It's been a special run with Tianna the last four years."
Maryland trailed 35-26 at halftime and went scoreless for the first 3 minutes after intermission.
"I thought we'd come out of the locker room with a lot more energy," Frese said. "They came with a knockout punch in the second half."
The Huskies will play Kentucky on Monday night in a rematch of last year's regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I.
The Wildcats beat Delaware 69-62 earlier Saturday.
Connecticut will be playing in a regional final for the 19th time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final Four and are seeking their eighth national title.
Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than its opponents. The Terps had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their first 33 games, including 39-35 in the teams' first meeting.
But UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.
"We were really looking forward to getting back on the court," Stewart said. "We knew Maryland was very physical and we just wanted to come out and disrupt them defensively."
Maryland hit just seven of its first 23 shots, but was 4 of 7 from 3-point range during that span, and trailed just 23-20 midway through the first half.
But 3-pointers from Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris pushed the lead to nine, and started a 12-1 run.
The Huskies looked as if they were about to extend that further, when Faris drove to the basket and appeared to take a hard foul. But there was no whistle, infuriating Auriemma, who received a technical foul.
Thomas made one of two foul shots, then hit a jump shot that cut the lead to nine 35-26 at halftime.