Hartley Struggling As Showdown Vs. Notre Dame Looms

Junior Bria Hartley was at times referred to as “Big Game Bria’’ over the course of her first two seasons at UConn. She was basically automatic against the nation’s best teams, earning All-American honors last season.

But heading into Monday’s showdown at No. 2 Notre Dame in the regular season finale, Hartley finds herself simply looking for something positive to occur. She is coming off the worst single-game shooting performance of her career in Saturday’s win at South Florida, finishing 0-of-11 from the field (0-of-5 3-pointers) in 32 minutes. She also committed five turnovers.

Hartley, who has missed 10 straight 3-pointers, is averaging 4.3 points on 4-of-27 shooting from the field (2-of-16 3-pointers) over the last three games. With her track record, though, the Huskies have not lost confidence in her and believe that she can bounce back Monday against the Irish.

“Bria’s whole mentality has gotten a lot better,’’ junior Stefanie Dolson said. “She recognizes and we all recognize that she hasn’t been playing as good as we know she can and as well as she knows she can. So she’s her worst critic. She kind of realized that and just has changed her whole mentality.’’

Freshman Breanna Stewart’s late-season surge took a detour against South Florida as she had just two points (1-of-3 FG), three rebounds ands three blocks in 12 minutes. She played only five minutes in the second half when the game was decided.

Stewart had averaged 15.5 points (12-of-23 FG) and 8.5 rebounds in 23 minutes in the previous two games.

The Huskies were not negatively impacted by the lack of offensive production from Hartley and Stewart against the Bulls. That was because Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (32) and Dolson (25) combined for 57 of the team’s 85 points. But can they beat Notre Dame without help from Hartley and Stewart?

“Only if we get 35 and 30 from the other two guys, which maybe is possible,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Who knows? But, obviously, we’ve got two guys who for the most part all season long have been right there in everything that we’ve done with very little … If you had a chart with their season and this is 10 and this is 1, it wouldn’t go straight across at 10, but the dips would not be very much below 8. So they’ve been unbelievably consistent all year long, those two, that at this point in the season you’ve got to go with it. And then everybody else has got to fill in a little bit, whatever that little bit is. Bria Hartley maybe goes 7-for-11 and it’s the difference. Breanna Stewart makes six shots and maybe that’s the difference. Who knows?’’