Connecticut continued its improbable run into the Elite Eight behind a big night from DeAndre Daniels. After his impressive performance, Daniels has been named NetScouts Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Player of the Day for games on Friday, March 28th.
Daniels poured in 27 points while shooting 10-of-15 from the field and 2-of-6 from three-point range. He added 10 rebounds and two blocks to lead the Huskies.
“DeAndre’s a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot’s going to go in,” teammate Shabazz Napier told the Associated Press. “We kept feeding him, and he got super hot.”
The 6-foot-9 junior forward has been a key contributor for Connecticut throughout the entire season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s developed into a stretch four who can knock down the three at a 45 percent rate or battle inside. Daniels has the length to compete on the glass but could add some bulk to his frame.
With his athleticism and size, Daniels has the physical tools to compete at the NBA level, but the biggest questions he’ll face are in his motor, consistency and strength. He’s beginning to put it all together and become another key option for Connecticut as of late. If he stays another year and shows added consistency, Daniels could become a potential first round draft pick.
The Huskies will need a similar performance from Daniels to knock off Michigan State and reach the Final Four. If Daniels and the talented backcourt of Napier and Ryan Boatright can have a big night, Connecticut may have a chance to return to the big stage.
Other Friday Game Notes
-Despite a late comeback attempt from Tennessee, Michigan held on in a 73-71 win. The Wolverines turned it over on four consecutive possessions in the closing minute and Tennessee had the ball trailing 72-71, but Jordan Morgan drew a charge on Jarnell Stokes and Nik Stauskas nailed a free throw to end the 8-0 Volunteer run. Morgan finished with 15 points (7-9 FG) and seven rebounds while Stauskas had 14 points (5-12 FG, 3-8 3FG). Morgan continues to be a key inside for Michigan since the absence of Mitch McGary earlier this season. Stauskas is the perimeter threat who can hit from the outside and has grown as an overall scorer. For Tennessee, Jordan McRae had a team-high 24 points to go with six rebounds while Josh Richardson had 19. McRae, a lengthy, 6-foot-6, senior guard, could draw some NBA intrigue due to his upside and streaky scoring ability.
-Elsewhere in the UConn-Iowa State contest, point guard Shabazz Napier had 19 points, five assists, and five rebounds for the Huskies. He continues to be a clutch performer in March for Connecticut. As for the Cyclones, junior forward Dustin Hogue scored a career-high 34 points to go with six rebounds. He’s known as a hard-nosed rebounder, but exploded as a scorer on Friday. Senior point guard DeAndre Kane finished his career with 16 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds and should find his way on an NBA Summer League roster. Fellow senior Melvin Ejim struggled, with seven points and eight rebounds, but the 6-foot-6 forward had the type of season to draw NBA or overseas interest.
–Kentucky upset Louisville 74-69 to advance into the Elite Eight. The five freshman starters are beginning to build chemistry and play well together. Four starters finished in double figures as Julius Randle led the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Louisville senior point guard Russ Smith had 23 points and three assists in his final game and could draw late draft interest due to his quickness and scrappy defense. Senior sniper Luke Hancock had 19 points while sophomore Montrezl Harrell will face an NBA draft decision after finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds. He’s an explosive, 6-foot-8 forward who attacks the offensive glass and can block shots on the defensive end.
–Branden Dawson continued his stellar tournament play with 24 points and 10 rebounds as Michigan State held off Virginia 61-59. Adreian Payne added 16 points and five rebounds while no other Spartan finished in double-figures. Guards Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon each had 17 points as Virginia becomes the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated. The Spartans are now 26-3 with Dawson in the lineup. He missed nine games this year with a broken hand.
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