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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, December 19, 2014

UConn's Stewart ready to kick it into overdrive

The challenging set of final exams were not the only tests that Breanna Stewart was looking to ace during UConn's recent 12-day break between games.

The reigning national player of the year is not one to dwell on individual statistics so she wasn't as upset about her string of four straight games being held under 20 points heading into Friday's game against DePaul as she was somewhat perturbed at the way she was playing.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma saw an immediate difference in Stewart when the Huskies began to practice after the final exam period had come to an end. Stewart was more actively involved in pretty much every possession she was on the court and that translated into a special performance on Friday night.

Stewart had 21 of her season high tying 25 points in the first half and also had eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 30 minutes in the Huskies' 98-64 win over a DePaul team which threw major scares into top five teams Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

"I could feel the difference whether it was the focus or something (else)," Stewart said. "I could tell I was more in tune with everything that is gong on. I wanted to be consistently better than I was before
It was a weird feeling."

Nobody has been impacted more by the graduation of All-Americans Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley than Stewart. With two fewer scorers on the court it has been easier to throw more bodies at Stewart and she hasn't always dealt with the additional attention and increased physical play.

"It wasn't the same as it was last year," Stewart said. "I felt like I wasn't doing as much as I could have done. Just to have my teammates rely on me and that kind of thing, step up in that position is important. Getting back to how I want to play, like I played tonight, that made me feel good because in the past games that we had I've always found things I could do better, a lot of things. Tonight there are still a lot of things I could do better but the vibe was different."

Speaking of people driven to succeed, UConn senior center Kiah Stokes has been so close to attaining a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in her time at UConn. However, an A-minus here or B-plus there kept her from perfection. Until now.

UConn announced earlier today that Stokes had a perfect 4.0 for the fall semester, the first Husky women's basketball player to accomplish the feat since Kelly Faris

"It was definitely a goal and I knew if I put more time into studying," Stokes said. "I could get an A-minus but I really put the effort into getting an A."

Auriemma reacted to the news as only he could.

"I am not surprised , Kiah is a great student," Auriemma said. "We have so many of them on our team. Gabby (Williams) got a 3.6, Kiah Stokes, Kia Nurse, I think they all  - I think there were nine out of the 12 (with GPAs) over 3.0. I am not surprised but she has one of those individualized majors that people take so she just makes (stuff) up. I was talking to her the other day and said 'what kind of major is this?' She is an unbelievable student. She thinks too much on the court but it helps her (in school)."

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