O'Neill taking charge of Husky offense

Jan. 9, 2005

by Mike Bruscas

Kristen O'Neill has always put the team ahead of her own statistics. But recently, the Huskies have needed O'Neill to be more selfish. A young team void of any seniors, Washington has relied on balanced scoring on offense, but with the team's shooting struggles persisting, O'Neill has started to shoulder the brunt of the points production.

Case in point, the junior guard set her career high in points with 19 this afternoon on 7-13 shooting from the field to lead all scorers, but the 22nd-ranked UCLA Bruins held on for a 74-63 victory at Bank of America Arena. O'Neill connected on 4-4 from two-point territory and also knocked in 3-9 from beyond the arc, but the rest of the Huskies stayed cold as snow lingered outside, and managed only 14-50 shooting. The 19 points equaled the highest point total for any Husky in 2004-05.

The new career high should come with extra significance for O'Neill, despite the loss. She was out of action for nearly a year and a half, first with an extended bout with mononucleosis that kept her bedridden for five months. Then just when she was looking forward to returning to the court, she suffered a severe stress fracture in her foot which forced her to miss the entire 2003-04 season.

'It's been a long road for me to get on the court again, so it's just great to be back out there,' she says. 'That was definitely the longest time I've ever been off the court. I feel very blessed that I'm able to play again.'

The pain in O'Neill's foot has not fully subsided and likely won't until her playing days are over. Every time she takes the court, there is a matter of how much pain O'Neill can endure, and the hope that the injury does not worsen.

'My foot is not pain-free at this time, but I'm healthy enough to be able to play and I'm hoping it continues to let me play,' she says. 'There's tendonitis and plantar fascia and stress reactions, so it's a case right now of hoping those reactions don't fracture. As long as they don't, I'm good to go.'

With each game back, O'Neill seemingly gains more confidence in her shot and has become more aggressive in going to the rim. She has now scored in double figures in five of the last six games for the Huskies, and has taken over the team lead in points with 9.6 per game. Add that to her nonstop intensity on the defensive end, and you have the closest thing to a senior leader the Huskies could hope for.

O'Neill hopes her increased aggressiveness becomes contagious.

'Each game that we come out we are looking to pull the trigger and get better so it was nice to see some of those shots start to fall. We aren't concerned with our poor shooting percentage, we're just trying to improve and each new game is a chance to improve. We want to continue to go out there and try to get better.'

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