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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hartley was anything but limited against Louisville


In some ways there might not have been a better opponent for Bria Hartley to have to go against as she came back from another ankle injury than Louisville.

The way the Cardinals push the pace was a perfect fit for the high-octane style that brings the best out of the UConn junior guard.

After firing up - and missing - some shots from the perimeter early on, Hartley was able to make some slashing drives to the basket both in half-court sets as well as in transition.

It wasn't just that Hartley shared game scoring honors with teammate Stefanie Dolson with her 16 points but also the aggressive nature that she played with that gave an indication that she was feeling pretty darn good after being knocked out of Saturday's game after rolling her left ankle. Perhaps no play was more impressive than Hartley pushing the ball in transition, driving to the basket and side stepping Louisville's Jude Schimmel to avoid being called for a charge. Hartley hit the layup while being fouled by Schimmel and completed the three-point play.

"I have been struggling a little bit since the beginning of the season and it is good to have a good game under your belt," Hartley said after the game.

Nobody was happy to see Hartley play a little more swagger than her head coach.

"Bria is a scorer and when scorers lose their confidence it is very difficult for them to be successful," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think the month that Bria missed, then coming back and not having the kind of success she wanted to have I think she got a little bit frustrated. You can be the most confident kid in the world but once some doubts creep into your mind about things you used to be able to do easily and now you struggle, it hurts our team. If you look at our guards, we have some young guards and Bria has played more basketball than all of them combined probably at the college level. When she is doing the things that she did tonight, with the attitude she had, she makes a difference in a game like this, no question about it.

"Until she feels the spark again and that quickness and she certainly played that way today. She wasn't shy unfortunately a couple of times. She played like the old Bria and with the stretch we have coming up ... I don't worry about her I just keep checking with her to make sure she is OK. I worry more about her defense, her ballhandling. When it is time to score points, Bria will score points I am not worried about that."

One thing that did not please Auriemma was the foolish turnovers. UConn was able to overcome the 18 turnovers because Louisville simply wasn't able to make the Huskies pay by knocking down open shots. The Cardinals did have a 13-12 edge in fast-break points but at least six of those points came after made baskets. Perhaps the most stunning number on the stat sheet was the seven turnovers from Kelly Faris. A majority of those came from her trying to hard to feed the ball into the post.

"It is good to be tough, it is good to be determined but it is not good to be stubborn and hard headed," Auriemma said. "If that pass ain't going to work, it ain't going to work the first time, the second time or the third time and that is the one thing that makes winning look a lot more difficult that it is (when) you don't get a quality shot every time down the floor and when you ask yourself why. If I showed it to you on film you just can't believe some of the things. Shea (Ralph) made a good point, I think some of our players, they are doing what they want to happen instead of what is actually going on. You have this one over here (Dolson) who has the ball at the high post going 'I really want to throw this to Kiah and get her a layup and the fact that there are four people guarding her, I don't really give a (darn). We are trying to work really hard of don't worry that much about the guy you are passing too, figure out where everybody else is who is on their team and it is a foreign concept."

It wasn't all bad for Faris. She had one of the signature moments in the game. Faris was on the left wing when she faked a pass to the corner and confidently turned and drained a 3-pointer during a pivotal point in the game. She finished with 13 points, seven assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

"That is the confidence that I think Kelly has and when you have Moriah standing on the other wing, you better have a lot of confidence," Auriemma said. If you pass up that shot, you don't know what the hell can happen so that gives you a lot of confidence because you might want to go 'maybe, oh no I am going to shoot it.'

STOKES HAS SOLID SECOND HALF
One of the under the radar performances from last night's game came from Kiah Stokes.

After blocking a pair of shots in the first half, Stokes saved her best for the second half. She grabbed five rebounds, made her only shot and had an assist and blocked shot. The way Stokes was able to be a disruptive force defensively caught Auriemma's attention.

"Kiah Stokes was great. I think with Kiah you almost ask yourself 'are you capable of doing that every night?'" Auriemma said. "What I am going to do is throw her out there, she what she does  and when she plays like she played tonight leave her in there and as long as she keeps doing what she did tonight just keep adding to it. Kiah's minutes at Connecticut are completely dependent on her and the way she played tonight, it changes out team a little bit. If we could  ever play those two and Breanna Stewart together, that is not a bad way to go against some teams and in certain situations but I want to see Kiah do this more than once before I say this is what we are going to get from her every night."

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