By Carl Adamec
NEW YORK — Bria Hartley proved in the second game of her college career against Baylor that she was willing to take and make big shots for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. She showed that capability throughout her All-American sophomore season.
But with the third-ranked Huskies having their hands full with St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena Saturday, Hartley was unable to get anything going. In fact, she didn’t take a shot from the floor in the final 9:00 as UConn turned to other scoring sources to get past the Red Storm 71-65 for their eighth straight win.
The North Babylon, N.Y., native had hoped some home cooking would give her a jump start as she expected to have at least 25 family members and friends in the crowd. But they saw what the Huskies have seen much of the season — a talented player trying to find confidence.
“Bria’s really struggling,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “That’s an understatement, probably. That’s one less thing we have to work with. So you just have to keep searching for what’s working that night.”
Hartley scored 10 points Saturday, including two free throws with 17.4 seconds left that allowed UConn (20-1 overall, 7-1 Big East) to breathe a huge sigh of relief. But she was just 3-for-13 from the floor, the 11th straight game she’s failed to hit at least half of her shots. She missed all seven of her attempts from 3-point land and most of them never had a chance.
She has played in 19 games this season, missing the first two against College of Charleston and Texas A&M with a left ankle injury suffered originally in the FIBA 3×3 world championships in August. After shooting 46.6 percent from the floor in her first two years, Hartley is at 39.2 percent this season. After shooting 36.0 percent from 3-point land in her first two years, Hartley is at 25.6 percent this season. After shooting 74.4 percent from the foul line in her first two years, Hartley is at 68.6 percent this season. She is averaging 8.4 points per game this season after averaging 13.2 her first two years in becoming the third UConn sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
If the left ankle is the problem, no one is admitting it. She did play 34 minutes Saturday, her second-highest total of the season. Hartley is searching for answers. So is her coach, who said Thursday he wasn’t worried about her. But Saturday he sounded concerned.
“It’s probably a multitude of things,” Auriemma said. “And I can’t tell you how good she was in September and the early part of October. If I were to try to describe it you wouldn’t believe it. Then missing that month and continuing to re-injure the ankle …
“I think it has gotten into her head and it’s a big struggle right now. It’s much more of a mental struggle than it is a physical struggle. She shot one ball today and almost hit the bottom of the rim and it came straight down. I remember looking at her and saying, ‘At least get it up in the air.’ The look on her face is ‘I’m trying.’ It’s just nothing’s going her way. She has to play her way out of it. There’s nothing else you can do.”
So Auriemma will stick with her down the stretch, not that he has that many options. The Huskies have nine regular season games left starting with Tuesday’s Big East matchup with Marquette at Gampel Pavilion.
Banks MRI Monday
UConn guard Brianna Banks will undergo an MRI on her sprained right knee Monday.
The sophomore was injured with 10:02 left in the first half of Saturday’s win on a drive to the basket. She was helped off the floor by athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle but returned to the bench to watch the second half with a wrap on the knee.
The Newnan, Ga., native is one of only five Huskies to play in all 21 games, averaging 7.3 points and 1.7 rebounds off the bench.
Three for all
When senior Kelly Faris made the second of her three 3-pointers with 6:09 left Saturday, she put the Huskies in the school record book. UConn now has four players — Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (155), Hartley (153), Caroline Doty (133), and Faris (101) — on the same team with 100 treys for the first time in program history.
The 2003-04 team had three players with 100 treys — Diana Taurasi, Maria Conlon, and Ann Strother. The 2011-12 team also had three with Hartley, Doty, and Tiffany Hayes.
Mosqueda-Lewis entered the game leading the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (50.83), just ahead of Penn State’s Maggie Lucas (50.82). But the UConn sophomore was just 1-for-5 from behind the arc against St. John’s to drop to 49.60 percent. Lucas and Penn State will host Purdue in a nationally televised game Monday night.
UConn wrapped up its 20th straight 20-win season Saturday. But that is not even close to a record.
Tennessee, under Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, had 36 consecutive 20-win seasons through last year. And the Lady Vols are in line to do it again under first-year coach Holly Warlick. Tennessee will take a 17-4 mark into Sunday’s SEC game at Missouri. The last time Tennessee failed to get 20 wins was when it finished 16-11 in 1975-76.
The Huskies are also looking for their 20th straight 25-win season and their eighth consecutive 30-win season. UConn and Duke (2001-07) share the NCAA record with seven straight 30-win seasons.
Faris could finish her career with 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists, and 250 steals. The only UConn player to reach all four of those plateaus was three-time Wade Trophy winner Maya Moore.
Where does Faris stand with as few as 11 and as many as 18 games to go? At her current pace she’ll get there.
The Plainfield, Ind., native needs 65 points for 1,000 and she is averaging a career best 10.7 points per game. She has 706 rebounds and is averaging 5.1 per game. She has 479 assists and is averaging 4.3 per game. She already has reached the number in steals (254).