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    UConn Women's Basketball
    Sunday, October 02, 2022

    Huskies' point guard guarding against freshman moments

    Bria Hartley, UConn's freshman point guard, has 107 assists, 99 turnovers this season.

    Indianapolis - For a good part of the season, UConn coach Geno Auriemma busied himself haranguing his 18-year-old freshman point guard, Bria Hartley. He reminded Hartley on more than one occasion that she was about to become the program's first point guard since Jen Rizzotti (1993) to commit more turnovers than she had assists.

    Now comes the Final Four.

    Hartley is the only freshman point guard here. In the last 20 years, only two freshman point guards, North Carolina's Marion Jones in 1994 and Maryland's Kristi Toliver in 2006, have won the national championship.

    Auriemma is definitely wary of Hartley's inexperience.

    "You gotta get great guard play in the NCAA tournament; (freshmen) don't know how to be great yet," Auriemma said Saturday, prior to today's national semifinal against Notre Dame.

    Yet here's what Auriemma said about Hartley during the Philadelphia Regional:

    "After she turns it over five times and throws the ball to everyone but the people she's supposed to throw it to, when all is said and done, when you put her in the position to make a shot, I know she's going to make it."

    And from Auriemma a few days later in a teleconference:

    "She's young, believe me. Younger than you think. But I wouldn't trade her for any other guards in the tournament."

    Hartley heads into today's game with 107 assists to go with her team-high 99 turnovers.

    But Hartley, who has been forced to learn on the job after returning point guard Caroline Doty missed the season with a knee injury, has learned how to overcome her mistakes.

    She had five turnovers in the regional semifinals against Georgetown, but also had 17 points and six assists, 12 points in the second half. In the regional final against Duke, she had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists against five turnovers.

    "I don't think it matters," Hartley said of trying to help lead her team to a championship as a freshman. "Freshman year has almost come to an end. Coach always says, freshmen have to play like sophomores, sophomores have to play like juniors. … I'm going to keep that in mind."

    Kara Lawson, an ESPN analyst and current member of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, was a freshman point guard for Tennessee in 2000, scoring 19 points in the national semifinals to lift the Lady Vols to the championship game.

    She said Hartley has had a few noticeable freshman moments, namely turning the ball over, but feels she will do well at the Final Four, especially since the Huskies are paired with a familiar opponent in Notre Dame.

    "Here's the thing about the freshman thing," Lawson said. "All the freshman (point guards) have struggled in the (NCAA) tournament. Bria has a group of players around her that have helped hide that."

    Lawson, however, likes the same things about Hartley that Auriemma does. "I love her competitiveness," Lawson said. "She's got a great demeanor."

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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