The Difference is Daniels…

Before the season, it was clear that DeAndre Daniels held the key to UConn’s success.

The talented 6-foot-8 small forward would be heavily counted on as a third scoring option and, more importantly, a force on the boards. This UConn team — with depth as thin as Daniels’ legs — has always sought consistency from the one-time top 10 recruit.

What happened at Providence Thursday night can hardly be termed “consistent.” But, in the face of a 31-rebound deficit (which tied a Big East record), Daniels collected enough boards and converted enough foul line jumpers for UConn to leave with an 82-79 overtime victory.

Long story short: No Daniels, no win for the Huskies.

That’s been the case all year. Here’s a look at Daniels’ performance in closely-contested wins vs. losses:

*Win vs. Michigan State: 12 points, eight rebounds, three blocks in 32 minutes

*Loss vs. N.C. State: 7 points, one rebound in 21 minutes

*Loss at Marquette: 11 points, one rebound in 17 minutes

*Win at Notre Dame: 8 points, nine rebounds in 26 minutes

*Loss at Pittsburgh: 5 points, zero rebounds in 20 minutes

*Win vs. Rutgers: 13 points, seven rebounds in 32 minutes

*Win at Providence: 18 points, seven rebounds, two blocks in 39 minutes

(Note: Daniels had his worst statistical game of the year — three points, one rebound in 29 minutes — in the double-overtime win over Quinnipiac. It’s fair to say the Huskies wouldn’t have needed two OTs if Daniels stepped up).

Break down the above stats and Daniels’ impact is obvious: In those four wins — all close games — Daniels averaged 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 32.3 minutes. In the three losses, his numbers dipped to 7.7 points and 0.6 rebounds in just 19.3 minutes.

You could say his production slid because of the decline in minutes, but the truth is he didn’t get minutes because of his poor production.

The stat that really tells it all: In Big East losses, Daniels averages 3.47 rebounds per 40 minutes. In wins, he averages 9.77 per 40 minutes.