Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
Four points, 1-for-4 from the field, two turnovers. Not the kind of stat line typically associated with a player of the week award. Unless, of course, you're the player causing those struggles.
In a matchup of All-American guards, Connecticut's Bria Hartley held Penn State sharpshooter Maggie Lucas to the aforementioned stat line in the first half Sunday. Hartley's defense helped the Connecticut senior earn espnW's first national player of the week honors for the 2013-14 season.
Those numbers were all that Lucas, the Lady Lions' top scorer and a Wade Trophy candidate, could produce against the hounding of Hartley in what turned out to be the decisive 20 minutes of the UConn-Penn State matchup at State College. Meanwhile, in the midst of perhaps the best individual defensive effort of the young season, Hartley scored 19 points of her own in the first half as the top-ranked Huskies opened a 15-point advantage en route to a 71-52 victory. Hartley finished the day with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, capping quite a week for her and Connecticut. Lucas, meanwhile, needed 17 shots to score her team-high 18 points.
The most difficult portion of the day was determining on which end of the floor Hartley excelled more. She was the steadiest cog in the big UConn wheel that rolled through three top-15 opponents this week despite playing two of them on the road with just seven scholarship players.
It began Monday in Storrs against No. 3 Stanford. Early in the second half, UConn's top scorer a year ago, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, fell hard to the floor and suffered an injured elbow. The All-American hasn't returned and missed what will likely be the Huskies' toughest stretch of the regular season. Largely because of Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis' absence didn't seem to matter. She led UConn in scoring (20), rebounds (eight) and assists (six) in the 76-57 win over the Cardinal.
Hartley's offense struggled Friday at Maryland, but her defense and leadership did not. Hartley only made 4-of-21 field goals for 10 points against the Terps, but had six assists and just one turnover while playing all 40 minutes.
More importantly, when Geno Auriemma switched to man-to-man from the zone UConn played most of the first half, Hartley drew the assignment of another All-American. Alyssa Thomas scored 14 points in the opening 20 minutes as Maryland trailed just 43-38 at the break. This time, the decisive half was the second and, not so coincidentally, Hartley was the major force in holding Thomas to just six points the rest of the way. UConn won 72-55.
After four games, Hartley is UConn's leader in scoring, assists and minutes. She is playing with the control and confidence that seemed lacking in her largely uneven junior season, when she was hampered by an ankle injury. Even an 0-for-11 3-point shooting night against Maryland didn't affect her psyche. Hartley just created success in other ways. As Stanford, Maryland and Penn State found out, that isn't a good sign for anyone hoping to dethrone the defending champs.
Also considered: Megan Nipe, George Washington; Hanna Luburgh, Akron; Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford.