Thursday was not an upset! Thursday night was the complete performance we have been waiting for all season.
The UConn men's basketball team showed the nation that they are a contender. The Huskies showed the nation that they do have a balanced attack, they are more than a one-man show, and they are a threat for a conference and national title. Now the big question - can they be consistent and do it again on Saturday night against the defending champs and continue for the remainder of the season?
The problem with the Huskies has been consistency in all facets of the game. The semester break has seen them play very inconsistently in wins against Washington, Eastern Washington and Harvard and play awful in losses against Stanford, Houston and SMU. The lack of leadership on the floor, poor shot selection and the dependency on an injured Shabazz Napier hurt them during the break.
Hopefully last night was the start of good things to come. DeAndre Daniels played his best game of the season. Omar Calhoun showed glimpses of his old self. Napier and Ryan Boatright proved that they are the best backcourt in the conference. And UConn is a much better team when Napier is distributing the ball and the team is playing a full court game. He now has 25 assists in his last three games.
Daniels was on fire. He was nine of 15 from the floor, including four of five from downtown, giving him a game high of 23 points. He also had 11 rebounds to complete his first double-double of the season. Memphis could not stop him. He owned the early part of the second half which gave the Huskies control of the game.
As Boatright said after the victory, Daniels is the most talented player on the team. Like last year and for most of this season - Daniels is the ultimate disappearing act. Was last night only a breakout game? Or will this be the person who can be the second or third option and consistently be a double-double man. UConn is so much harder to defend when they have multiple options on the floor.
Another bright spot is rebounding. For the third game in a row, the Huskies outrebounded their opponent. Repeat that - UConn had more rebounds than their opponent for the third time in as many games. This is the first time they have done that in more than two years. They combined to have 34 boards - 13 on the offensive end - while Memphis had 27. If this team can rebound the ball and limit their opponents in second chances, then games will be much easier to win.
The one thing that does concern me is the turnovers in the final minute in close games. That is one thing the Huskies have been consistent with. In most of their close wins, someone has had an awful turnover to keep the opponent in the game. Napier got called for an illegal screen against Indiana which gave the Hoosiers a chance to win the game, there were a series of turnovers and fouls in the final seconds against Harvard that gave them a shot to tie the game, and then there were three turnovers in the final minute last night that gave the Tigers an opportunity to keep the game close. That is just lack of focus and needs to be fixed as this team gets into the heart of the conference season.
If the Huskies can be consistent and continue to play as well as they did on Thursday night, then Saturday night at Gampel Pavilion has the potential to be a special night against the Louisville Cardinals.