By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — It should have been the kind of fast-paced game Bria Hartley thrived in.
Instead the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s junior guard started slowly against Oregon last Monday and quickly coach Geno Auriemma had seen enough. Hartley watched the final 31 minutes of the Huskies’ 95-51 rout of the Ducks from the bench. She played a career-low seven minutes and scored just two points.
“I wasn’t really playing that well,” Hartley said. “Coach has high standards for me and I have high standards for myself. I don’t think I was playing the way I’m capable of. And I have to be a leader for all of my teammates. You can’t let little things like me not being prepared or not knowing where my man is on the court slide, especially a player like me. I have to pay more attention and that was a good thing for me to learn.”
Hartley will be in the starting lineup Saturday when the top-ranked Huskies take on No. 5 Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion.
Auriemma said there was nothing wrong with Hartley physically. Two days earlier, she played 38 minutes against Stanford.
Caroline Doty and Moriah Jefferson got most of Hartley’s minutes against Oregon and took full advantage of them.
“I just didn’t feel like playing her,” Auriemma said. “I thought the other guys deserved to play a little more. It wasn’t anything in particular. I just thought it was a great opportunity to play those other guys.”
Auriemma said Hartley has looked good in practice leading up to Saturday’s nationally televised showdown.
Hartley comes in averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 assists in 23.5 minutes per game. She has played more minutes than any UConn player since her arrival in 2010.
Which made Monday’s events stunning.
“It’s just a learning experience,” Hartley said. “You’ve just got to take it. There’s nothing you can do about that. You come back to practice and you work on the things that you know you need to work on and just work really hard. That’s all I can say about that.”
Sky high on Skylar
Notre Dame senior All-American guard Skylar Diggins is having another, well, All-American season. She is averaging 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists for the 11-1 Irish.
“Skylar’s play has been excellent for us all season long,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She continues to show why she’s the best point guard in the country, whether it be her tough on-ball pressure at the point of our defense that helps get our transition game going, or the way she controls the flow of our offense.
“She sees the court and the game so well, a few steps ahead of everyone else, and she’s consistently setting up her teammates and putting them in ideal positions to score. She’s also been the consummate leader and team captain, taking the younger players under her wing and showing them what it takes to compete on the highest level. She always comes to work hard and improve herself every day at practice and that kind of work ethic and passion is contagious and it’s a big reason why we’ve been able to enjoy the kind of success we’ve had throughout her career.”
Diggins, the reigning Big East Player of the Year, is expected to be a top three pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
Doubling her fun
It took 105 games for UConn’s Doty to get her first career double-double. The fifth-year senior had a season high 14 points and career high 12 rebounds in 26 minutes against Oregon.
“It reminded me a lot of my AAU days with the fast pace and transition game,” Doty said. “We always worked on getting the ball out of the net in one second and get going. It would be fun to play like that all the time but I don’t know if I could anymore with my knees.”
Doty had six points, nine rebounds, and seven assists at halftime as she threatened to become the first UConn player since Laura Lishness in 1989 to record a triple-double.
“At the half Coach said I had nine rebounds and I looked at him kind of weird,” Doty said. “I didn’t know how many points or assists I had.”
Doty got her 10th rebound with 11:12 left and a 3-pointer with 9:24 to go got her into double figures scoring. But she would settle for the seven assists as she left the game for good with 8:48 remaining. She also chipped in four steals and two blocked shots.
Auriemma said he wasn’t going to keep Doty in just to get a triple-double.
“I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. In a 40-point game I’m not going to give people opportunities to get some kind of stat. If I had known maybe my reaction would have been different. Because it was Caroline, probably not.”
Doty could not have cared less.
“We won, we played well, and we had a great trip,” she said. “How can you be disappointed?”
Freshman Morgan Tuck made it back on the court during UConn’s west-coast trip after missing the Oakland and Hartford games with a bone bruise in her right knee. She played just three minutes against Stanford but had 10 points, seven rebounds, and five steals in 27 minutes against Oregon.
“I was just glad to be able to get out there and the knee felt pretty good,” Tuck said. “It gets a little sore afterwards but that comes with playing the game.”
Sophomore Kiah Stokes is on the comeback trail from a right shin stress reaction that has sidelined her almost a month. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for her return.
“She’s been getting her workouts in and she’s had two days, yesterday and today, where’s she was on the court for maybe 15, 20 minutes,” Auriemma said. “So we’re getting closer to having her out on the floor. We’re getting closer and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. She could be a big help to us.”
UConn senior Kelly Faris has fallen behind Kansas’ Natalie Knight as the nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Knight is at 5.83 while Faris is at 4.89 … The Huskies will have a crowd of 10,167 cheering them on today. “It’s great to see it finally sold out,” Doty said. UConn has sold out all 12 meetings against Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion … Auriemma, with full sarcasm, predicted an 82-0 win for Alabama in Monday’s BCS championship game with Notre Dame … After Friday’s practice, Auriemma headed to Ossining, N.Y., to see Ossining High and UConn commit Saniya Chong take on Christ the King and UConn Class of 2014 target Sierra Calhoun.