Feb. 28, 2013
By Scott Waggoner
University of Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels was reminded plenty of times this week about the talent of Georgetown guard Otto Porter Jr. heading into Wednesday’s game against the No. 7 Hoyas. The sophomore saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to prove himself.
“I’m good, I’m one of the top players and that’s how I feel so I took it as a challenge and played hard,” Daniels said. “I was hearing a lot of people saying I can’t play with Porter, but it’s just a team game so I came out and my teammates found me and I was able to knock down shots tonight.”
Daniels was sensational, scoring 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds, though it wasn’t enough as the Huskies fell to Georgetown 79-78 in a double-overtime thriller on Wednesday night in Gampel Pavilion. He was on the floor for 49 of the game’s 50 minutes.
While it was Porter who made the final basket to seal the game, Daniels emerged as a player who has all the tools to be one of the best in the BIG EAST moving forward.
“He was everywhere,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “He played like we know he can and with the attitude we want to see.”
Connecticut’s defense stifled Georgetown in the first half, holding the Hoyas to just 19 points on six of 21 field goals. Daniels was at his best defensively, using his length and quickness against Porter, who had just one point at halftime.
“He did a phenomenal job rebounding and blocking shots,” Ollie said. “He took on the challenge of Porter and he passed it.”
In the second half, the Hoya shooters caught fire. Georgetown made eight three-pointers to push their lead to 12, though in the final minute the Huskies were still in the game. After a missed Georgetown free throw with just under ten seconds in regulation, Connecticut junior guard Shabazz Napier grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball up the court to sophomore Ryan Boatright, who found guard Omar Calhoun in the corner for a three-point attempt to tie the game. The freshman knocked it down and sent the game into overtime as the Gampel crowd was in a frenzy.
“It was a tough shot but I could shoot the ball,” Calhoun said. “I just had a good look at the rim and was able to knock it down.”
Calhoun was once again fantastic rebounding the basketball, finishing the game with seven boards. He has had at least five rebounds in Connecticut’s last eight games.
“I’m always a big guard I could mix it up with the bigs and rebound so I try and make sure that I’m showing that aspect of my game too," said Calhoun.
Daniels has had big games in the past, though the production from him hasn’t been there every night. After his best performance of the season Wednesday, Ollie hopes the forward can start to be more consistent.
“Now for him it’s not just one game,” Ollie said. “It’s the last three games and then coming back next season. He’s going to keep aspiring to get higher and grow and keep learning.”
Despite the loss, the Huskies have to be commended for their toughness to battle back after being down double digits in the second half. Connecticut has carried a certain grittiness all season, and Wedsnesday it nearly helped them defeat another top-ranked team.
“I’m very proud of my guys,” Ollie said. “They showed character and showed heart. I would go to battle with them any day.”
The Huskies will look to bounce back Saturday when they go on the road to face Cincinnati. Tip off is set for 2 p.m. Eastern and the game can be seen on ESPNU and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
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