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Women's Basketball: O'Neil nets milestone 300th victory at UML

By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online

Monday, January 06, 2003 - LOWELL Outsiders would have surely chalked this one up to the inspiration of a milestone.

Surely, it was no coincidence that the UMass Lowell women's basketball team played perhaps its most complete game in years on the very same day its coach, Kathy O'Neil, became just the fourth women's hoop coach in New England to win 300 games ... or was it?

Maybe the River Hawks' 73-50 win over the Northeast-10 Conference's second-place team, Le Moyne, yesterday wasn't mere happenstance, but it certainly wasn't motivated by win No. 300. As it turns out, the players may not have been oblivious to their task at hand, but when it came to O'Neil's accomplishment, that's another story.

'We didn't know until they announced it at the end of the game. She's pretty modest,' said UMass Lowell senior guard Meghan Hamilton of her coach's achievement. 'We were teasing her in locker room after, saying 'Day off tomorrow for win No. 300,' but she didn't buy it. She's had a great career.'

UMass Lowell athletic director Dana Skinner was one person who did realize what O'Neil had done before the Costello Gymnasium's public address announcer informed the masses. And it was the AD who summed up the day best after shaking his coach's hand and saying, 'You never thought No. 300 would be so easy.'

Five wins in a row or not, nobody could imagine that the River Hawks would handle the Dolphins with such ease.

After trailing 10-8 in the early going, UMass ran off a mind-blowing 29-10 run to close out the half, and for all intent and purposes, the game.

'When I think about (win No. 300) I just think I've been here a long time,' said O'Neil, who has averaged 20.1 wins over the past 10 seasons. She is now 300-199 in her 18-plus-year career. 'The kids I'm coaching now were born when I began. That's what I think about, that I'm getting old.'

Paving the way for UMass Lowell was the continued emergence of center Dahima James. The senior ended up making seven of her eight field goals (16 points), while controlling the paint with eight rebounds. The outing improved UML's record to 8-0 when James grabs seven or more boards.

And while James was the only River Hawk to total double-figures, the entire UMass Lowell squad contributed to a 56 percent shooting performance. From the nine-point outings of Enjoli Edwards, Itxaso Mallaviaberena and Dragana Rabota, to the eight-point showings of Mariette Guillaume and Kendra Lund, the red-hot River Hawks could do no wrong.

Another positive stemming from the UMass Lowell rout was its ability to continually rely on a variety of weapons. This time around, its leading scorer, freshman Jelena Spiric, failed to make a field goal while totaling just two points. And neither Spiric or Guillaume, the River Hawks' leaders in steals, didn't have one theft against the Dolphins.

The pair of newcomers, however, did represent an improved athleticism against a Le Moyne team that UMass Lowell hadn't beaten since the programs came into the NE-10 two seasons ago. It's a dimension that has freed up the likes of Rabota and Hamilton for a more manageable offensive attack.

'I think we have great depth, that's really our strength,' said O'Neil, whose team improves to 8-3 (4-2 in NE-10). 'We can play a lot of players and we can sustain the tempo, which is important.'