Connecticut’s win came at a crucial time as the team’s next three games will provide serious competition. The Huskies will visit the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Jan. 12, host the Louisville Cardinals on Jan. 14 and then travel to face the Pittsburgh Panthers on Jan. 19.
If Connecticut stands any chance at picking up a victory on the road or against the best team in the conference, they’ll need more than their two leading scoring guards to produce. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will keep the Huskies competitive in any contest but even the guards might be biting off more than they can chew against that type of schedule.
The duo will have to hope they can get more games out DeAndre Daniels like they did with him against the Blue Demons. Daniels delivered his second career night in just over a month by recording 26 points, eight rebounds and shooting 9 for 12 from the field. The sophomore has only failed to score in double-figures once since his first career performance and even then he finished with nine points and five rebounds.
The 6-foot-8 forward can add a significant piece to the Connecticut offense if his interior presence can continue to be effective. His production doesn’t need to surpass career totals every game, he only needs to maintain the effort level he displayed against DePaul. After all, it has been that effort level that’s led to setting a career high and breaking it a month later.
If Daniels can maintain his high level of play it’ll only help take pressure off the Huskies backcourt to lead the team. Boatright finished with 22 points, four rebounds, two assists and shot 50% from the field while Napier delivered 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and four steals in the victory. The six-foot Boatright and the 6-foot-1 Napier would be even more effective on both ends of the floor if they had a reliable paint presence on a consistent basis.
Whether or not Daniels can be that presence remains to be seen but the sophomore certainly helped the Huskies pick up a must-win against DePaul. Connecticut might not be headed to post-season action, however the team certainly wants to remain competitive.
Given their next three opponents, that might be all the Huskies can hope for.