With the 57-49 finish, UConn didn't blow out Harvard on Friday but this no one really expected them too. Despite the fast start to open the season and the No. 25 ranking shortly thereafter, the reality is this: the Huskies are young and inexperienced. And while it's nice to win games, it's also important in November and December to find out who can play once the Big East schedule picks up after the new year.
We said last week that the Huskies had to get better in the paint and sophomore DeAndre Daniels would play a big part of that.
"Last year, when things would go bad, I wanted to go home," Daniels said in November. "I understand my role better. I'm boxing out better, and I'm going to get the ball better. I have to do that because I'm not as big and strong as some of the [frontcourt] guys we're going to face."
Against Harvard, Daniels had just four rebounds but he dropped a career-high 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting. (If you're filling up the basket there aren't a lot of opportunities for rebounds, right?)
"DeAndre is a player," coach Kevin Ollie said, "and DeAndre just has to have that confidence to take it to the rim, be aggressive. And that's what we wanted him to do today. ... He decided to play today. And that's what DeAndre can do.
"He's a load on that sweet spot -- not right on the block, but right on that sweet spot where he can take one dribble. He's so long. One time he looked like he was Dr. J -- he went under the rim, under the backboard and made a scoop shot. We will need that in Big East play and coming up after the break, because we've got some good teams coming in here."
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker came away impressed, too. "It was a tough matchup for us," he said. "He seems to be a very versatile player. We've also been seeing and hearing that they wanted to get more from him."
And they do. Whether it happens remains to be seen, but Daniels continues to improve and is playing with confidence he didn't have a season ago.
"I can help them and take the load off (UConn's guards) because everyone is going to be scouting us and trying to get us out of our game," Daniels said. "I just need to step up and help and get the load off of their back."