Coming into Saturday, most experts said DeAndre Daniels would be the X-Factor for Connecticut against Florida. Not only did Daniels perform at a high level, but he was the only player to achieve a double-double on Saturday as the Huskies advanced into the championship game. After his performance, Daniels has been named NetScouts Basketball’s Final Four Player of the Day.
Daniels had 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and a 2-of-5 showing from behind the arc to go with 10 rebounds. He stretches the floor as a power forward in Connecticut’s offense but also showed his athleticism with some high-flying dunks.
“DeAndre was huge for us,” head coach Kevin Ollie told the Associated Press. “He stepped up and really rebounded for us and was pretty much unstoppable.”
The 6-foot-9 junior forward has boosted his draft stock this tournament, averaging 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. With his size and athleticism, Daniels might have been the best NBA prospect in the game. He can translate into a small forward at the next level, and if he declares, he has the possibility of being a late first or early second round pick.
Guard play will definitely be key for the Huskies in the championship, but Daniels will need a big night down low to balance the offense. As in the rest of the NCAA tournament, Daniels will be key if the Huskies hope to win the NCAA championship.
Other Saturday Game Notes
-Although Daniels had a big night, guards were also essential for the Huskies. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 25 points (8-15 FG, 3-5 3FG), nine assists, nine rebounds, five steals, and three rebounds while Florida’s point guard tandem of Scottie WIlbekin and Kasey Hill combined for 11 points (4-15 FG, 0-3 3FG), seven turnovers, three rebounds, and one assist. The two UConn guards did not let Wilbekin and Michael Frazier into the game, employing close man-to-man defense throughout the contest. Frazier was only able to get off three shots in 32 minutes. Several of UConn’s steals came by anticipating dribbbes by Wilbekin and Hill in one-on-one situations. Hill committed four turnovers in 15 minutes of action. Napier and Boatright allowed no penetration by the Gators’ guards as Florida was limited to season lows of 53 points and three assists. Napier and his team continue their success into the finals, where they might need an even better showing to top Kentucky.
–Kentucky has finally lived up to its preseason hype, advancing to the finals of the NCAA tournament after beating Wisconsin, 74-73. Aaron Harrison drilled another game-winning three-pointer, this time with 15 seconds left, as the Wildcats advance to face Connecticut in the finals. Traevon Jackson’s jumper from 18-feet spun out at the buzzer that would have won the game for the Badgers. Harrison nailed only one of two three-point field goals that the Wildcats made throughout the contest. Freshman shooting guard James Young had a game-high 17 points along with five rebounds although he sometimes struggled on the defensive end. Fellow freshman Julius Randle had 16 points and five rebounds in the win battling through a turned ankle.
Sophomore forward Sam Dekker only attempted four shots for Wisconsin, but made three of them to go with an 8-of-8 display from the free-throw line to finish with 15 points. Senior guard Ben Brust had an additional 15 points for the Badgers. Kentucky’s interior defense made it tough for Frank Kaminsky, holding him to eight points. Wisconsin should still be in good shape next season if Dekker and junior center Kaminsky return.
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