This was exactly the kind of performance that UConn needed.
The Huskies picked up a huge win on the road tonight, beating No. 17 Memphis 83-73 in an exciting, back-and-forth affair highlighted by a dominant performance by DeAndre Daniels. UConn performed well in the paint, got offensive rebounds and largely kept Memphis' best players in check, and when the Tigers threatened to come back late, the Huskies clamped down and put the game away.
Sure there were some issues, Amida Brimah and Phil Nolan's ongoing foul issues chief among them, but this wasn't a performance to nitpick. The bottom line is UConn beat a good opponent on its home floor convincingly, and when the season is over this will stand as one of the team's best wins.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic to come out of this game is the rebounding differential. UConn outrebounded Memphis 34 to 26 despite the Tigers' much more highly regarded frontcourt. Daniels was key in this regard, recording one of the best games of his career with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Equally surprising was the three point shooting performances of Shabazz Napier and Memphis as a team. Memphis is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, but they came out firing on all cylinders, hitting five of their first seven threes before eventually tapering off and finishing 7-for-17 from behind the arc.
Napier, on the other hand, was only 1-for-8 from behind the arc. Despite the ice cold shooting performance, he still finished with a causal double-double, recording 17 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds on the night.
The rest of the team came to play too. Omar Calhoun had a huge resurgence, scoring seven points off the bench in one of his strongest performances in ages. Kromah was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, scoring 13 points, and while Brimah got in foul trouble again, he still had 6 points and 5 rebounds and looked pretty good whenever he was on the floor.
On the other side, Michael Dixon Jr. was Memphis' top scorer, scoring 16 points off the bench. Senior guard Joe Jackson and sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin had largely quiet nights, at least for most of the game, but did finish with 11 and 10 points respectively.
At the end of the day, this was a huge momentum builder for UConn going into Saturday's mega-matchup with Louisville. The crowd atmosphere for that game is going to be off the charts, and I for one can't wait.