Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels has proven he can be a scoring threat this season, but consistency in the scoring column remains a problem. There are times when he slips into his best Houdini impersonation and his numbers reflect that.
But any examination of trends during UConn's 13-5 shows that when Daniels becomes a top three scorer for the Huskies, they win.
In a 66-54 victory over Rutgers Sunday, Daniels scored 13 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the field and hitting one of his two three-point attempts. His 13 points was third highest on the team, behind Shabazz Napier's 19 and Ryan Boatright's 15. The rest of his game benefitted from his offensive aggressiveness. He had seven rebounds, four of which were offensive, and one crucial steal late in the game.
Daniels understands a performance like the one against Rutgers can be important to UConn's success.
"Making my shots was good and my teammates were looking for me," Daniels said. "I was able to knock them down."
With 4:57 remaining in the second half, Daniels reentered the game for Niels Giffey, with the Huskies leading 48-43. After Eli Carter missed a three-pointer for Rutgers, UConn grabbed the rebound. Napier would eventually miss a three-pointer, but Daniels grabbed the miss and tipped it in. UConn went into its fullcourt press and Daniels stole the inbounds pass right in front of the basket and slammed it home for an easy two points.
That put UConn up nine points with 3:53 remaining and Daniels did it all in nine seconds.
"I actually didn't see DeAndre's steal, I was back there talking to some of my coaches," coach Kevin Ollie said with a laugh. "Having DeAndre out there and having the luxury of a four man that can pressure is just great with his long arms."
When Daniels scores 10 or more points in a game this season, the Huskies are 7-1. The 82-76 overtime loss at Marquette on Jan. 1 is the only loss in that stretch. Daniels had 11 against Marquette and then scored his career-high 26 points in the 99-78 win against DePaul on Jan. 8.
When Daniels scores less than 10 points in a game, UConn is 6-4. In those four loses, Daniels is averaging 7.5 points per game and 2.75 rebounds per game, which is lower than his season averages of 10.7 points and team-leading 4.6 rebounds. He is also shooting 35 percent from the floor and 23 percent on 3-point attempts during those four losses. In the most recent loss to Pittsburgh, Daniels scored five points and had no rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time. He had nine points in the loss to Louisville prior to that.
"I really believe he's getting closer [to being a consistent scorer]," Ollie said after practice Wednesday. "He still has a lot of room to grow, like all our guys. We're going to keep pushing them. But I'm seeing the intensity [from Daniels] and, most importantly, I'm seeing it in practice when he is talking and communicating more."
UConnPlaybook.com publisher and managing editor Ken Davis contributed to this story.