Daniels is suddenly dominant

A few quick hits following UConn’s 57-49 win over Harvard:

— PEOPLE HAVE been waiting for DeAndre Daniels to have a breakout game. Well, there you go.

Daniels, playing with a bad back, had a career-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

He had only scored in double figures FOUR TIMES before in his career. And he’s the first non-guard to lead UConn in scoring this season.

Can he become that consistent third scoring option the Huskies probably need going forward?

“I hope so. We’re going to keep feeding him the basketball. We’re going to keep putting him in position to succeed,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Hopefully this is a stepping stone for him.”

“For us to be good we need him to shine.”

— DANIELS RECEIVED treatment during the game and spent some time after the game working with trainer James Doran before speaking with the media (I’ll allow that, I guess).

“It’s kind of sore right now. I just got ‘stimming’ it and now I’m going to take a pill to relax my muscles,” Daniels said. “I’ll be ready for (today’s) practice.”

So what made Daniels bust out?

“It all started with me talking with K.O. (Ollie) and him just telling me I need to be confident in myself and be the person I used to be,” said Daniels. “At the start of the game they were going to go to me early to try to get me going and I was able to knock down my shots.”

— WITH A 10-day break for final exams head, UConn finished the “first” part of its schedule 7-2. That’s better than many expected, perhaps even Ollie.

“I would definitely take 7-2,” Ollie said.

“I’m very proud of them but I’m not satisfied,” Ollie added. “We have to continue to work.”

— THERE WERE 9,113 fans at Gampel Pavilion Friday. It was the largest home crowd of the season (in either Hartford or Storrs) and nearly a sellout. That’s good but it’s kind of a small number to celebrate for the Huskies, no?

“Our sixth man, our crowd, was unbelievable,” Ollie said. “I told coach (George) Blaney after we came out at halftime ‘I don’t know why they (UConn players) can’t get excited for this. Just to see the crowd, I wanted to play.’ ”

However, the fans that were here (mostly students) did have an impact. For one, they used the old “fake shot clock countdown” trick to perfection, forcing a violation from the Crimson. Ollie actually gave them credit for two but it appeared the other wasn’t REALLY the crowd’s doing.

“They got two shot clock violations for us because they were counting down and stuff,” Ollie said.

— HARVARD COACH Tommy Amaker thought the 6-foot-8 Daniels was a tough cover for his team.

“It was a tough matchup for us. He seems to be a very versatile player,” Amaker said. “We’ve also been hearing and reading that they wanted to get more from him. He certainly looked like he delivered tonight.”

— TWICE IN THE second half Harvard pulled within one point. The Crimson had the ball a chance to take the lead both times but came up short.

“Very frustrating,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “If somehow we could have at the very least tied it, or if we could have taken the lead, it changes the psyche of things. We could never get to that moment and that was a big turning point.”

Ollie was asked what he thought when Harvard pulled close.

“I said ‘We’re in trouble. Somebody make a shot.’ That’s what came to my mind,” Ollie said with a smile. “But we showed a resilience. We’ve been doing it all year, everybody’s seen our games.”

— THE HUSKIES’ leading scorer had just six points. But Shabazz Napier made an impact with nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals (all season highs).

Ollie was asked after the game if he’s talked to Napier and Ryan Boatright about making an impact without scoring and if Napier really manifested that Friday.

“He manifested it a little too much for me,” Ollie said. “I want him to get 18 points because I know he’s capable of it.”

— THE START Friday at center may have gone to Enosch Wolf but that’s not necessarily how UConn will look going forward. Tyler Olander could easily move back in at some point.

“I just told Tyler to fight to get that position back,” Ollie said. “It’s not etched in stone that he’s a starter. I go by feel, I go by effort, I go by production. Enosch deserved to start. We’ll see where we go through these practices and we’ll evaluate it day by day.”

Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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