Frustrated Hartley plagued by inconsistency
Updated 7:45 pm, Friday, January 11, 2013
MILWAUKEE -- Bria Hartley does not have to voice her frustration at this point. It is written on her face. It is evident in her body language on the court.
Hartley is not the same player who was named a WBCA/State Farm All-American as a sophomore last season in leading No. 3 UConn to the Final Four. This is not the same player who has thrived in big games and wants to take big shots with the game on the line.
The battle Hartley is waging inside of herself right now is unlike any other that she has faced during her career with the Huskies. Her confidence is battered as UConn prepares to face Marquette today at the Al McGuire Center (4 p.m.; SNY).
"I don't even think it was this bad my freshman year, I'm not going to lie,'' Hartley said. "But I've just got to pull myself out of it, to be honest. It's tough and it's probably one of the hardest things I'm going to have to overcome. The only thing I can do is just hard work because it's what got me to where I was last year, and I've just got to continue to work hard.''
Nearly every aspect of Hartley's topsy-turvy season was in plain view Wednesday at Georgetown. Hartley committed two turnovers in the first 53 seconds. She opened the game 1-of-8 shooting from the field, missing her first six 3-point attempts.
But when it seemed as though she was destined to have another forgettable performance, Hartley made three 3-pointers in a span of 1:22 in the second half to highlight a 12-point effort. The burst provided just enough evidence that her All-American ability might not be as far away from resurfacing as it has appeared.
"Sometimes I do (she's close) and sometimes I think she's an ocean away,'' UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph said. "I think that's where the problem lies and that's where the frustration lies I'm sure for her, her teammates and for us as coaches. It becomes a question of why it's there sometimes and why sometimes it's not.''
Hartley admittedly returned to campus this fall in the best shape of her life, poised to build off of last season when she averaged 14.0 points in a team-high 33.2 minutes. However, after practicing Oct. 13 and 14, she would miss the next six weeks due to an injured left ankle.
Never did she imagine that it would set her back this far. Hartley is fifth on the team in scoring (9.5, career-low) and is averaging 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 25.1 minutes in 12 games this season. She is shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from 3-point range, which also represent career-lows.
"I'm frustrated right now. I think,'' Hartley said. "I feel like I'm the type of player, I kind of just let the game come to me or usually I just like get in the flow of things and it just seems like I've been inconsistent lately, like even within the games. I'll make a good play here and then make a really bad play there.''
Hartley appeared to be headed in the right direction when she scored a season-high 21 points against Oakland Dec. 19 and followed with 15 points at Hartford three days later.
From there, though, she scored a combined 21 points on 8-of-23 shooting (2-of-10 3-pointers) in games against Stanford, Oregon and Notre Dame. Hartley was benched by UConn coach Geno Auriemma after playing seven unproductive minutes against the Ducks Dec. 31.
"I just think there's a lot of pressure on her to go `snap' and it's going to happen,'' Ralph said. "I think there are steps being made that only Bria can make. But she has to do it. There's no one else who can do it for her. We can't do it for her. She knows what she has to do.''
Hartley said that she cannot pinpoint why she is being plagued by inconsistency. Yet, she will not let her present level of frustration bury her.
Hartley will continue to work hard. She still believes in herself. And she said her teammates have been pushing her to improve during this trying stretch.
"I think I'm making strides,'' Hartley said. "And all you can do is just go in the gym and keep working on it and hopefully, see some improvement day by day. I had it at one point so I've got to be able to get it back. It'll come, just don't rush it. Don't think too much. Just go out and work as hard as you can every day.''
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