Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bench play needs to improve for UConn

A couple of things I took away from the recently-completed American Athletic Conference tournament.

First, UConn's starting five was spectacular and the play of the key reserves was often times downright dreadful.

While there's more to playing well than scoring, seeing UConn's main three reserves going 3 for 16 from the field was not what Geno Auriemma was looking for.

Kiah Stokes shook off a couple of uneventful appearances to get back to playing like she has for most of the season in Monday's championship game but Saniya Chong did not play until 2:16 remained in the game and if not for Moriah Jefferson picking up two early fouls, I'm not sure Brianna Banks would have gotten into the game until garbage time either.

With some practice time before UConn opens play in the NCAA tournament, getting his reserve guards back to playing with confidence is a major point of emphasis for Auriemma and his staff.

"I thought Kiah gave us some good minutes today.," Auriemma said after the AAC final "The inconsistency that she plays it is just so frustrating and so infuriating.  When she plays well she is really good and when she doesn't play well she is a lot, lot less than good. We talked about it that she needs to be somebody that we can count on as does Brianna Banks and as does Saniya Chong. I am hoping that over the last 10 days when we start practice again that they find something that allows them to be better but right now we are kind in a wait and see with them."

Stokes has struggled with her confidence throughout her collegiate career but she played well enough in the regular season for the conference coaches to name her to the second team All-AAC squad. Seeing her getting back to playing effectively like she did against Louisville was huge for the Huskies because they will need her to provide quality minutes off the bench at some point during the NCAA tournament.

"It felt good," Stokes said. "I was talking to 'Ris (assistant coach Marisa Moseley) and she wants the best from me and when I go back towards my old ways, she is pulling for me. She doesn't want me to get down on myself. It was great to come out here and do something positive.

"These next couple of weeks we have to give them something, we can't just roam around and we have to bring something otherwise what is the point of playing us? We know our starters can't play 40 minutes so it is our motivation that we have to do something so it is not all on the starters."

UConn will play at either 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. on Mar. 23 at Gampel Pavilion with the second-round game set for 7 p.m. on Mar. 25.

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