It seems as if her name has been mentioned after nearly every game this season. Brianna Banks continues to make plays for the second-ranked Huskies off the bench. She continues to earn more and more playing time. And she continues to earn the trust of UConn coach Geno Auriemma and her teammates.
Banks, a sleek 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, has clearly been the most improved player for the Huskies through the first seven games. She continued her resurgence Monday by generating 11 points in 19 minutes in a 63-48 win over No. 9 Maryland.
“I don’t have any reservations about putting her in the game,’’ Auriemma said. “She’s exceeded my expectations already. I thought it was going to take her half the year to kind of use that transition from where she was last year to becoming a player that we can trust. She took the ball to the basket a couple times, and sometimes something good happened and sometimes it didn’t, but she didn’t stop being aggressive. And I think she’s getting to the point where she doesn’t listen to me that much, which I guess is a good sign that she’s becoming a pretty good player.’’
Banks scored nine points (3-of-4 3-pointers) in 13 minutes in the second half, making the shot of her career to date with 12:41 remaining and the Huskies leading 40-33.
Banks calmly stepped up and made a 3-pointer to stop a 6-0 run by the Terrapins.
“The 3 came from an unusual shooter because Brianna Banks last year I think she made three total for the year, and I think she’s got what nine already,’’ Auriemma said. “And she just shot the ball with a lot of confidence. And when she shot it, I could tell she thought it was going in.’’
Banks later made another 3-pointer to give UConn a 58-41 lead with 5:52 left. When she let the ball go, Auriemma was hardly happy with her shot selection. The end result, though, was soothing.
“She launched that one 3 from right in front of our bench, and I was (mad),’’ Auriemma said. “And then I saw it go in, and I was like, `Alright.’ Because we had just talked about how we got them in the 1-and-1. So Bria Hartley kept going to the basket and we kept going to the free throw line. Once we got them in the 1-and-1 we wanted to keep attacking on the dribble, and I know she can get to the basket any time she wants. And she just right in front of me … If I could have reached out and grabbed her hand and pulled it back … But she’s got a lot of confidence right now. Honest to God, she’s got a lot of confidence. God bless her.’’
Said Maryland coach Brenda Frese: “I thought Banks was spectacular. She gave them a ton of energy.’’
Banks, who has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time in her career, is averaging 9.7 points and 2.3 assists in 18.6 minutes for the Huskies. She is confident. She is being both assertive and decisive with the ball. And because of these things she is shooting 63.2 percent from the field, 58.8 percent from 3-point range and solidifying her spot in UConn’s primary rotation.
“I said from the very beginning during the summer when you guys were asking, `Who’s improved?’ And she’s definitely one of the ones at the top of my list,’’ UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “There’s a handful of them that I think have really made an effort to improve and she’s doing great. And it’s huge to have that. We have Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) go down (with a left quad contusion) and then we have Bri Banks who can come in and not be afraid to do anything, take it to the basket, knock down a 3 when we need it, get steals, get rebounds. She’s doing everything right now.’’