All-American Bria Hartley was enjoying her best stretch this season. She was averaging 16.7 points (17-of-28 FG), 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists over the last three games.
Hartley seemed poised to extend her run of good fortune today at Rutgers. It never happened as she played just four minutes, 26 seconds. The only statistic next to her name on the final stat sheet was one foul.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma benched Hartley and fellow starters Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis during a media timeout with 15:34 left in the first half. Doty, Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis all returned to the game at various points in the half.
Following the game, Auriemma insisted that the decision to sit Hartley was due to an illness, not because of her lack of production early on.
“It couldn’t be performance because she didn’t play,’’ Auriemma said. “She wasn’t healthy at practice yesterday. She didn’t feel good last night at dinner and she wasn’t great this morning at shootaround. So she gave it a shot, and it just didn’t work out.’’
Here are Auriemma’s thoughts on why he benched the four starters and instead utilized the lineup of Stefanie Dolson, Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart Kiah Stokes and Morgan Tuck …
“Well, we had a game plan going in, and one of the things that we wanted to make sure that we didn’t do was put Rutgers on the free throw line unnecessarily, and I thought that all we did right those first four minutes was foul,’’ Auriemma said. “I don’t think we accomplished anything else. We didn’t run offense. We didn’t play defense. We didn’t do anything. The only thing we did well in those first four minutes was foul. So I figured the next group couldn’t do any worse, and they did better.’’
The Huskies committed three fouls during the opening 4:26, which led to four free throws for Rutgers.