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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Juniors Banks, Stokes step up for UConn

When they were freshmen or even sophomores, Brianna Banks and Kiah Stokes were often little more than luxury players for the UConn women's  basketball team.

If they happened to make an impact that was great but the Huskies did not need necessarily need them to win games.

However, with All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis out with an elbow injury and Morgan Tuck sidelined following knee surgery, the Huskies are down to seven full scholarship players. They have responded in a positive fashion in being asked to deliver more while the Huskies are short-handed.

Banks scored the first eight points in Saturday's 100-46 win over Monmouth and scored in double figures for the second time in the last three games with 12 points to go with three assists and three steals. Stokes had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. She scored in double figures in three straight games for the first time in her collegiate career and her three double-doubles this season tops her mark of two in her first two seasons combined.

"We have seven scholarship players and if two of our main players go down we have to step up, we can't play with only five," Stokes said. "I know for me personally, if Stef or Stewie were to go down tomorrow I would have to step up even more but you are really trying to do what they (Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes) do every day in practice so it is hard to make up for those two but if each person does a little bit more we can fill what they bring when they are playing."

Stokes has shown flashes of brilliance in her first two seasons but her lack of consistency has driven the UConn coaches crazy. Both associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Marisa Moseley have raved about Stokes' improved work ethic and intensity both in practice and games this season. On Saturday Auriemma weighed in on Stokes' improved production.

"I think there is more of a go try to do something, go try to get a rebound, go try to block a shot, go try to post up," Auriemma said. "Maybe she is having a little bit of success and wants more of it, that is the only thing I can think of. It is not like all of a sudden she has changed her (body), she has gotten any taller, any quicker or any faster, she is still the same person but just the same person trying to do more things than she did last year, that is 90 percent of the battle, just trying more."

Stokes still wants to be more.

"I feel like there are times when I could have gotten one more rebound or one more block so you are never satisfied but it is the first step," Stokes said. "It is way better than the past few years. I am just playing harder and playing with more confidence. I know I am able to do those things so if I am able to rebound and block shots every game, start with that and be more aggressive offensively. I can always offensive rebound so if I can do that, any little thing I do helps and the confidence comes with it.

"I have been yelled at for the past two years and it is kind of getting old, I just wanted to work really hard and I wanted to come into my junior year with a new mentality, I am not an underclassman any more, I have to be one of the role models and leaders for the team so working on it to prove I could do it. I know the past two years I was kind of iffy, should I do this or should I do that and now I am comfortable with our offense and how he runs his program and that helps a lot. Just knowing that I can do what I can do."

In the morning shootaround Stokes knew that Banks was going to have a big game based on how well she was shooting the ball and how aggressive she was playing.

"We were so happy for her in practice, she was making 3's and we telling her 'be confident, shoot,'" Stokes said. "She is a good shooter so we like when hard work pays of."

Banks also had a sense that she was going to make an impact against Monmouth.

"I could tell by the way I was warming up that my shot was (falling)," Banks said.

"We have to support the players that are out and make up for what they bring so we definitely come hard every game and try to make up for what we don't have."

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