McDaniel shows potential in Michigan win over Pitt
BROOKLYN, NY — Freshman guard Dug McDaniel is the fastest player on the field pretty much every time he laces up. If he can’t get through defenders, he can just get around them – he’s so quick.
A fast-playing freshman, however, can be a recipe for disaster. A level of recklessness can accompany speed, leading to avoidable reversals and errors that guards learn to avoid with experience. At times, McDaniel is prone to those errors, recording turnovers in all of his games at Michigan so far. But Wednesday night against Pitt, those concerns took precedence and McDaniel took the wheel.
“As I keep playing, games tend to slow down,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “I tend to become more mature and get more used to the atmosphere, so I definitely feel like my game has slowed down a bit.”
In an unimpressive first half, McDaniel only made one field goal and delivered a single assist; he didn’t show anything special. His agility increased as much as usual, but he wasn’t turning it into offensive production. When the second half came around, however, McDaniel looked like a whole new player. Composed and precise, McDaniel played an important role in helping Wolverines turn a six-point halftime lead into a 31-point blowout.
McDaniel finished with a respectable eight points and five rebounds, but where he really shone was as an enabler. Collecting eight assists – and only turning the ball over twice in the process – McDaniel consistently found open shooters and rim runners.
“Dug is just scratching the surface,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “There’s a lot more of that in him, and there’s a lot more growth I’m talking about. It’s just nice to see how much confidence the whole team has in our guards because they got the job done.
McDaniel began to come to life after jumping through the paint to complete a look at the rim midway through the second half. The streak did not end there, however. Seconds later, he intercepted an errant pass from Panthers forward Nate Santos before bouncing it off second-year guard Kobe Bufkin for an easy layup in transition.
After that, it was show time. That he flashed in the paint before sending him to graduate fullback Joey Baker for three years, that he put him over freshman forward Tarris Reed Jr. for a finish on the edge or that he led freshman forward Will Tschetter perfectly to the rack — McDaniel tore the Pitt defense apart like a quarterback with too much time.
McDaniel didn’t just pass the eyesight test, however; his statistics confirm it. Finishing with a plus-26 in the box — the third most for Michigan — the Wolverines were playing their best basketball with McDaniel on the ground.
“Dug played a great game for us,” Howard said. “We just work and he doesn’t hesitate to work. He’s a competitor, and he competes out there on the floor. Every player on the pitch is going to make mistakes, it’s part of growing up.
Despite his passing clinic in the second half, McDaniel made his fair share of mistakes. He produced a wayward dribble in the first half that went out of bounds. Likewise, a ridiculous floater somehow dropped despite his poor move selection. And an imprecise pass resulted in a turnover at the end of the second half. But these errors were limited.
With each game, McDaniel seems more and more comfortable reading a defense, and more and more effective at exploiting them with his game. McDaniel plays fast, and if he keeps control of the wheel, the opposing defenses will have a hard time following.