It was not as if UConn coach Geno Auriemma needed any further proof that All-American Bria Hartley has been significantly slowed by a troublesome left ankle that forced her to miss six weeks – and two games –earlier this season and is still not fully healed.
But Auriemma showed Hartley some film from last season’s game at Duke earlier this week. She had 15 points, seven assists and two steals in 39 minutes in a 61-45 win and was a dominant presence in the game.
“You see Bria last year and you watch her now on her ankle and it’s not the same person,’’ Auriemma said. “We showed her like a five-minute clip of last year’s Duke game, and you would’ve thought that we were fast forwarding it, that’s how fast she was getting up the floor. They had absolutely no answer for Bria last year going up the floor. And we haven’t seen her be able to do that.’’
Hartley has struggled to put a string of strong performances together this season. She has twice scored in double figures in back-to-back games and has reached double figures in scoring just seven times in 16 games.
Hartley finished with just six points against Duke Monday. But she again seemed to progress by producing a career-high nine assists in 30 minutes. She was not forcing things offensively. Instead, she took what the defense gave her and was able to regularly find her teammates in prime positions to score.
“I was really just trying to attack in transition and I think a lot of times they came and collapsed and my teammates were open,’’ Hartley said. “So I was definitely looking for dishes to them. And I always want to work on my post passing so I was trying to improve on that as well.
“I think it was (a step forward). It’s always hard when you’re not scoring. You want to find other ways to contribute. And I think I did a good job doing that and just making sure I did better on the defensive end as well. That’s one of the main things I’ve been focusing on.’’
Hartley is averaging 8.7 points (.413 FG), 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 24.3 minutes this season. Through her first 16 games last season, she was averaging a team-high 15.4 points (.538), 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 31.7 minutes.