Memphis guard Geron Johnson (55) chases the loose ball against Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier (13) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)
DeAndre Daniels creates matchup problems anytime he's on the court. But if he's on, like he was Thursday night against Memphis, he's virtually unstoppable. And it was Daniels' 23 points and 11 rebounds that opened things up for Shabazz Napier late in the game to give the Huskies a much-needed American Athletic Conference road win, this time against a ranked opponent. When it was over, UConn notched an 83-73 victory and moved to 2-2 in the AAC.
"They were leaving Shabazz wide open," coach Kevin Ollie said afterwards, "and he's a great player. He knew he had to take it to the basket. He had a strong finish, which we've come to expect from him. … He stayed with it."
Daniels, meanwhile, looked every bit the NBA talent most pegged him for heading into the season. And while he's played with more consistency as a junior than a sophomore, it was performances like the one he put on against the Tigers that led to such high expectations from fans and NBA scouts.
"DeAndre Daniels was a big difference tonight," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "Shaq Goodwin got sucked out [to guard him] and he made some big three pointers."
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Huskies however. Memphis made a late first-half run and led 40-39 at the break.
"We did a phenomenal job adjusting," Ollie said of his team's second-half effort. "We were ball hunting, that's what we do, we go hunt the basketball. Our pick-and-pop plays were great, which is really hard to stop when it gets going. Our offensive rebounding was huge. We continued to execute and eventually got some stops."
Much of the talk heading into this game was the potential UConn-Memphis AAC rivalry, now that the Big East is a fading memory. Ollie addressed that as well.
"I think it could absolutely develop," he said. "With all the talent they have over here, and Memphis is a hotbed of talent. I respect Josh (Pastner) for the job he's doing, taking over a difficult situation and now taking it back to where it was before. Hopefully we can come back and play them in the conference tournament."
The Huskies are back in action Saturday when they host Louisville at 9 p.m.