By Carl Adamec
HARTFORD, Conn. — Bria Hartley bit the top of her uniform as she took a seat next to associate head coach Chris Dailey on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s bench Saturday. It was the same look the All-American had when athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle was re-taping her troublesome left ankle a week earlier at Marquette.
Hartley didn’t get any medical attention as Dailey had words for her but it was obvious something was not right. The junior guard played only 19 minutes in the third-ranked Huskies’ 87-62 Big East win over Syracuse at the XL Center. She watched the final 7:47, including a time when the Orange tried to make things interesting. She had three points, three rebounds, and three assists.
“I know she rolled her ankle maybe two or three times out there today so maybe that was a part of it,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But I don’t know what to expect anymore so I just kind of chalk it up as just a bad day, just a bad day.”
Hartley was coming off a 16-point effort in 33 minutes against Louisville Tuesday night but couldn’t take another step forward. On her way to becoming a 1,000-point scorer as a sophomore, Hartley never scored less than six points in 76 games. She’s had four games of three points or less in 15 contests this season.
“Bria’s a key player,” UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She’s our only All-American right now. We’ve just got to get her back in the flow of things. She’s got to feel more comfortable and be confident out there.”
Reserve sophomore center Kiah Stokes was in uniform and participated in pregame warmups but sat next to Ragle during the game, a sign she wasn’t going to play. She left Friday’s practice with pain in the right shin that caused her to miss five games.
“It’s going to be one of those things that every day we come to Gampel and see what happens,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a time when she’s going to be 100 percent the rest of the season. It’s just a matter of how much can she manage what it is. Some days it’s going to better, some days it’s going to be worse. We’re just going to have to go and play it by ear.”
Auriemma has not had his full 11-player roster available to him since Dec. 6.
The in crowd
Saturday’s game, with a 4 p.m. start, drew a season high crowd of 14,786 to the XL Center. The previous best was 11,645 for the Maryland game Dec. 3, though the Huskies did sell out Gampel Pavilion (10,167) for the Notre Dame game Jan. 5. Last Tuesday’s game with No. 15 Louisville, with a 9:10 p.m. tip, drew only 8,702.
“Maybe it was the time of day, or the time of year, I don’t really know,” Auriemma said. “Four o’clock games on weekends are always really good times for people to come to games. I think you can pretty much look in the stands and see that the crowd was different today, not so much in terms of how many people, but it had the look and the feel of what we used to take for granted with Connecticut basketball for all those years. Hopefully we can have more of these.”
About 1,000 tickets remain for Monday’s game with unbeaten and No. 4 Duke at Gampel Pavilion.
Sight for sore eyes
With 14:20 left Saturday, Stefanie Dolson made a steal near the top of the key and saw Kelly Faris ahead of the field for what appeared would be an easy layup. Only Faris wasn’t looking for the ball and instead of an assist Dolson’s pass became a turnover, one of 18 for the Huskies.
Auriemma threw his eyeglasses to the floor, though they did not break.
“I figured if I took my glasses off, I can’t be seeing what I’m seeing,” Auriemma said.
In her last four games, Faris — who had a commanding lead in assist-to-turnover ratio in the national statistics two weeks ago — has 22 assists and 15 turnovers but that includes a plus-6 against Marquette on Jan. 12. She matched her career high with seven turnovers against Louisville. She totaled 11 turnovers in UConn’s first 13 games.
Faris also had her career-best run of seven straight games scoring in double figures snapped Saturday when she finished with eight points on 2-for-6 shooting from the floor. She did record her 250th career steal.