UConn men: Daniels wakes up

Connecticut's DeAndre Daniels, center looks for a rebound against DePaul's Moses Morgan, left, and DePaul's Derrell Robertson Jr., right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Connecticut’s DeAndre Daniels, center looks for a rebound against DePaul’s Moses Morgan, left, and DePaul’s Derrell Robertson Jr., right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

John F. Silver

DeAndre Daniels has to play for UConn.

One look up and down the roster and it becomes apparent  quickly that Daniels is going to be on the floor by default because there is no one else to take his place.

A year after looking over his shoulder on every play during a disappointing freshman year has turned into him playing his sophomore year without fear. When Daniels looks over his shoulder he doesn’t see anyone as he is going to be in the lineup thick or thin for the Huskies.

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie does have limits to even a player like Daniels could play.

Despite UConn being undermanned and undersized, in the Big East opener against Marquette Ollie sat Daniels for most of the final 17 minutes.  Ollie wants Daniels to be more aggressive and stop settling for 3-pointers instead of attacking the basket. Ollie wasn’t happy with the rebounding and sent a message that no one has unlimited reign in the lineup.

The message was heard loud and clear by Daniels.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore was a different person in the past week. The nice guy Daniels actually got in a scuffle with his roommate Ryan Boatright during a box out drill and continued that aggression on Tuesday against DePaul.

Daniels scored a career-high 26 points on 9 of 12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in UConn’s 99-78 blowout of DePaul.

Daniels is a silky smooth athlete who makes it look easy with his height.  Those athletic gifts sometimes causes his game to be played on auto pilot. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday when an aggressive Daniels became an impossible player to guard for DePaul.

Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the leading scorers for the Huskies (11-3, 1-1 Big East), and if Daniels can continue this kind of play makes the Huskies formidable.

Connecticut's DeAndre Daniels (2) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Connecticut’s DeAndre Daniels (2) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

“DeAndre came back and played the way I expect him to play,” Ollie said Tuesday. “I know I’m going to get points from Shabazz, I know I’m going to get points from Boatright.  I can pretty much mark that down, that they’re going to get double figures on most night…It just gives us an extra dimension to have him score like he wanted to score.  Not just out there playing, he wanted to score.  Hopefully it’s not just a moment.  Hopefully we can get this over a consistent period of time…. He did a hell of a job (Tuesday).  I’m very proud of him.  Very proud.”

Daniels decided not to settle for 3-pointers and instead have tried to work his way. Daniels is shooting 48 percent from the floor but only 25 percent from 3-point range.  He took Ollie’s advice and stopped shooting from that distance unless it was in the flow of the offense.

“I just wanted to be more aggressive, stop shooting so many threes and take it to the rack and get easy layups and dunks,” Daniels said. “Sometimes I tend not to be aggressive and just try to get the ball to [Shabazz Napier] or [Ryan Boatright].  But I was aggressive tonight.”

The addition of Daniels as a consistent scorer drew Napier’s blessing.

It’s easier for everybody,” Napier said. “When you have that third player, defenders can’t guard you as tight as they usually do.

Sometimes he doesn’t know whether he wants to stay outside or be in the middle.  He has to figure that out.  Once he does, he’s kind of hard to guard.  We play him at the four for a reason.  Other fours are unable to play defense on him as well as he would be able to play defense on them.”

Daniels increased his scoring average to 11.2 points per game and is second on the team to guard Napier at 4.4 rebounds per game.

The Huskies will face Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend at 2 p.m. on SNY.