Men's Basketball Notebook: Daniels stepping up in postseason play to propel Huskies
NEW YORK - A week ago, before UConn's Second Round game against Saint Joseph's, DeAndre Daniels made a post on Instagram.
It was a picture of his jersey with the caption: "And the road begins. Your whole demeanor changes once you see that NCAA logo on your jersey."
And it showed.
From averaging 12.5 points per game during the regular season to scoring a team-high 27 points on Friday night in the 81-76 win over Iowa State, Daniels has picked up his play in the postseason by scoring 56 points over the three games in the NCAA Tournament so far.
"I just want to win," Daniels said. "I just want to go out there and just play hard for my teammates. This is the Tournament, and this is when everybody's going to go out and give it their all. And just with our seniors on this team, I just want them to go out with a good bang."
Daniels scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, all while grabbing 10 rebounds - his fourth double-double - and blocking two shots. He said staying assertive on offense was the key for the success Friday night.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive and just start of the second half just keep staying aggressive," Daniels said. "It would never have been possible if it wasn't for my teammates looking for me, and coaching staff getting me the ball in the right positions. And I was able to knock down my shots tonight."
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie confirmed strategy and said the team often "concentrate" on Daniels to get him more looks.
"It's not about points for him, it's about getting touches," Ollie said. "It's about him bringing energy. When he does that, his talent takes over and you have that combination, it equals success."
Ollie considers Daniels an "inside-outside threat" and that the team tries to "manipulate the defense" with his skills.
"Getting him in the sweet spots, that's what I like to do on our offense," Ollie said. "And then I got great two point guards that find him in the sweet spot, and throw and deliver the ball on time and on target, and he did a great job tonight staying with it. Because he could have easily hung his head, and he stayed with it and he pushed us over the top in the second half."
Daniels has also dealt with a couple of injuries this season. From twisting his ankle at Rutgers in January to a back spasm a few weeks later that limited his minutes, Daniels battled through them and continued to contribute to the team.
"He's been hurting sometimes, but he still is here," Ollie said. "He's still fighting for our team, and there's been some ups and downs where he didn't play to his abilities, but at the end of the day, you can always be a great teammate. And that's what he's continued to do. You don't have to be a great, all the time basketball player, but you can always be a great teammate, and that's what he's doing."
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