O'Neil wasn't ready for college career to end


POSTED: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

RENO, Nev. » It's fitting the only senior on the court last night came up with the big play at the end.

Fresno State's Dwight O'Neil wasn't around for the Bulldogs' two loses against Hawaii earlier this year.

He was suspended at the end of January and missed seven games during that stretch before returning to the team for its final homestand of the season.

No matter what the outcome was, he was the only guy in danger of having his collegiate career end. And he played that way, hitting the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds remaining to spur the Bulldogs to victory.

“;With about 9 (minutes) left, I told myself I wasn't going to shut up,”; said, O'Neil, who implored his team to stay together despite trailing by as many as 11 in the second half. “;I stayed animated trying to keep the team focused, keep them pumped up.”;

O'Neil made his presence felt on both ends of the court. Hawaii's Roderick Flemings finished with 18 points, but only had eight after the 9:42 mark in the first half.

O'Neil was the primary defender on Flemings, who torched the Bulldogs for 22 in a four-point win less than three weeks ago.

He looked well on his way to breaking that mark with 10 quick points, but O'Neil's defense tightened and he found it harder to get things going.

“;They switched up their defense and it made it hard to get shots in the second half,”; Flemings said.

Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland credited his only senior for it.

(Flemings) is very tough to guard and he had 18, but he had to earn those 18 points,”; Cleveland said. “;Dwight had enough physical moxie to battle him the whole game.”;

He put the ball in O'Neil's hands late in the game, moving him to point guard with the Bulldogs six minutes away from seeing their season end.

O'Neil helped them creep back into it, and his step-back jumper with 22 seconds left gave the Bulldogs their first lead since midway through the first half.

“;Coach put me at the point and that was my opportunity to leave my mark on this game,”; O'Neil said. “;The jump shot has been money to me since I got back on the floor.”;


Wahine find their shot

The 39 points the Hawaii women's basketball team scored in the first half against San Jose State were the most it put up against a WAC opponent all season.

Only once have the Rainbow Wahine hit the 40-point mark in the first half the season, getting exactly that in a 90-74 loss to Purdue on Nov. 29.

“;Usually we can hit from the outside,”; Hawaii acting head coach Pat Charity said. “;We shot pretty well here Saturday (against Nevada) so I thought it'd come back to us.”;

Hawaii finished 24-for-48 from the field, finishing 50 percent or better from the floor for the first time in 22 games.


Hittle plays through pain

Rainbow Wahine senior Tara Hittle saw action for the first time in five games, gritting out seven minutes on a bum knee.

Hittle had a noticeable limp during warm-ups, but was one of 12 Wahine to play at least seven minutes. She did not attempt a shot.


Charity making progress

Acting head coach Pat Charity is 3-5 since taking over for Jim Bolla, who was put on paid leave after accusations arose that he kicked at a player in practice.

Hawaii was 4-17 when Charity stepped in for Bolla on Feb. 13 at Louisiana Tech. She also coached the Wahine to six wins in eight games in 2007 while Bolla recovered from valley fever.


Banquet time

The season-ending banquet for the men's basketball team is April 16 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. For more information, call 956-6501.