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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Interesting day at office for sophomore class

It was the best of times and worst of times for UConn sophomores Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Brianna Banks and Kiah Stokes during yesterday's escape against an upset-minded St. John's squad.

Sophomore guard Brianna Banks winces in pain after injuring
her right knee against St. John's 
AP Photo/John Minchillo
The low mark obviously came with 10:02 left in the first half when Banks injured her right knee on a drive to the basket. Banks, who was called for an offensive foul on the play, fell awkwardly on the play and then a St. John's player inadvertently collided with Banks when she was on the court. Banks immediately grabbed her leg in pain. She had to be helped off the court and into the locker room to have her knee further examined by UConn team doctor Tom Trojian and athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle. She returned to the bench late in the first half without a wrap or ice pack on her knee. However, when she sat on the bench for the second half she wore a protective sleeve on the leg from about the mid thigh to her calf.

The severity of the injury won't be known until there is an MRI done on her knee tomorrow.

Mosqueda-Lewis, who led the Huskies with 19 points and 10 rebounds, have her ups and downs during the game. She did not attempt a shot for the first 9:22 of the second half. More than five minutes elapsed before she attempted another shot - which she missed. Then, with the Huskies tied with an unranked St. John's team looking for its second straight regular-season win against the Huskies, Mosqueda-Lewis finished the game in impressive style. Whether it was on post ups or cuts through the lane, Mosqueda-Lewis got the ball in the low post three times in a span of 2:24 as she scored seven straight UConn points.

Mosqueda-Lewis' impressive finishing flurry was further proof of her maturity as a player.

"I watched last year's game and she wasn't ready to play at this level," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the game. "Today she was completely different, she is a lot more confident so you want to take advantage of that."

Mosqueda-Lewis agreed with her coach's assessment that she was in a much better state of mind late in Saturday's win than she was in the 2012 loss to the Red Storm.

I felt like I was more confident. Last year in tight games I was really nervous and I was able to sort of relax and play my game."

Senior Kelly Faris also weighed in on the emergence of Mosqueda-Lewis as a go-to player for the Huskies.

"She in completely different," Faris said. "Obviously she always had the talent and she got smarter and smarter throughout the year last year. I could tell coming in this summer she had a completely different mindset. She felt what it was like to come up short. If you have the right kind of personality it can rub you the wrong way and I think it did. She has improved every game so I am really proud of her."

Stokes drew the start in place of the ill Stefanie Dolson but after two uneventful first-half stints, she did not go into the game in the second half until there was 9:14 remaining. Just 33 seconds later she hit a jumper. Down the stretch Stokes had three rebounds, a pair of free throws, the assist on Kelly Faris' backbreaker of a 3-pointer and a blocked shot.

"I had a few key defensive rebounds and if that is what my team needs, that is what I am going to give to them," Stokes said.

"I didn't know I was going to start until we came in for the second time in warmups. I didn't expect to, I thought Stef was going to be able to play and that is something I need to work on, being ready to play if Stefanie gets sick or hurt I need to step up. I was definitely nervous when I got out there, coming out in the second half I was determined to make an impact."

Stokes has the makings of being a key post player for the Huskies but her lackadaisical practice habits have limited her playing time. She is hoping to bring more energy in practice.

"I need to work harder at practice, you are going to see it in games," Stokes said. "I would say right now I am not the hardest worker in practice. I am trying to work on that so each day I go harder than I did the day before."

A lack of energy is not something that was evident in Banks' brief stint on Saturday. In the 84 seconds Banks was in the game she changed the tempo the Huskies were able to play out.. The duo of Banks and freshman Moriah Jefferson were like a personal infusion of 5-Hour Energy to a sleepwalking UConn squad.

"I think both Brianna Banks and Moriah Jefferson gave us a big lift when they came into the game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The game changed a little bit and for that one little spurt, it only lasted three or four minutes, we really had the game going the way we wanted to."

It would be a shame if the final images of Banks in her sophomore season came during her that span of 1:24 when Banks' energy provided such a spark for her team so much in need of something positive to happen.

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