Feb. 18, 2006
SEATTLE - Subbing for an ailing Cameo Hicks, senior Kristen O'Neill scored 17 points in her final home game Saturday, carrying the Huskies to a 66-51 win over Oregon State before 3,108 fans at Bank of America Arena.
The win, combined with a 77-73 USC win over UCLA, moved Washington (18-7, 11-5) past the Bruins and into sole possession of third place in the Pac-10 Conference with two games remaining. Oregon State (12-12, 6-10) dropped into a tie for seventh with Oregon.
The Huskies trail Pac-10 leader Stanford by just two games, with Arizona State second at 12-4 entering a late game Saturday. Washington finishes the Pac-10 season at Stanford and Cal next weekend, meeting the Cardinal first on Thursday at 7 p.m., before wrapping up the 2005-06 regular season in Berkeley Saturday afternoon.
In order to enter next weekend with a shot at the Pac-10 title, however, the Huskies needed to win Saturday - an effort made more difficult by the pregame news that assistant coach Kellie Lewis-Jay and leading scorer Hicks would both miss the crucial home contest while battling the stomach flu.
In Hicks' place was senior O'Neill, starting for the final time at home after having come off the bench in UW's previous 17 games. The senior from Edmonds, Wash., started every game of the 2004-05 season and the first seven games this season, before giving way to sophomore Dominique Banks.
"I walked up to [Kristen] early and told her that Cameo wasn't ready to go, and that she'd be in the starting lineup," said 10th-year head coach June Daugherty. "She had a big smile on her face. As usual with her, whatever it takes, she'll do it. Whenever I thought Kristen was getting a little tired she reminded me that she'd play 40 minutes, especially for senior night. She had a great game."
From the opening buzzer, Washington played like a team that knew what was at stake, holding the Beavers without a field goal for more than four minutes while opening an early 8-0 lead.
A 13-2 run later in the half - including six points from O'Neill - made it 26-10 in Washington's favor, and the Huskies led 34-17 at the break. Oregon State shot just 25 percent before halftime, with its 15 turnovers nearly doubling its eight made field goals.
Six more points by O'Neill in the opening minutes of the second half helped Washington open a 20-point lead, at 45-25 with 14:17 to play, before the Beavers began to claw back. OSU forward Kim Butler - who finished with a game-high 20 points - scored 14 of the Beavers' next 18 points, leading the visitors on an 18-7 that cut the Huskies' lead to just nine points, at 52-43, with 6:56 remaining.
Washington put the clamps back down, however, holding the Beavers to just three more field goals the rest of the way and feeding the ball to posts Breanne Watson and Andrea Plouffe, who combined for eight of UW's final 14 points.
For the game, the Huskies limited the Beavers to just 29.5 percent shooting from the field, while forcing 22 OSU turnovers. Washington is 18-4 when forcing at least 15 turnovers from its opponent, and finished the 2005-06 season with a 12-2 record at home.
After the game, head coach June Daugherty expressed pride in the way her team played, despite a number of players feeling the ill effects of the flu that forced Hicks to watch the game from the stands, instead of from the sideline.
"There were times tonight when I was looking at kids like Jill Bell, who was feeling sick, but wanted to fight through it and play for the team. We were in that situation with a lot of our kids," Daugherty said. "It was tough, but our kids showed a lot of guts. They wanted to send the seniors out with a win."
Washington will play its final two games on the road next week at Stanford and Cal before returning to the Bay Area in two weeks for the Pac-10 Tournament. The team that finishes the Pac-10 regular season with the best conference record will be declared conference champion, while the team that wins the Pac-10 Tournament will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.