Some pregame notes as Oregon prepares for its first Pac-12 road game at Arizona tonight at 6 p.m.
— Louis King and Paul White both rank among the Top 10 scorers in Pac-12 games and UA coach Sean Miller is not sure that either of Oregon’s 6-foot-9 forwards get enough credit.
King is averaging 19.3 points in three conference games, trailing only USC’s Bennie Boatwright, Stanford’s KZ Okpala and Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson. White is scoring 16.7 points during the best three-game stretch of his Oregon career.
“Louis King might not be somebody everyone in the West knows, but he’s very talented,” Miller said. “He’s one of the best freshmen in the country and he’s settling in. … You can see when Louis King settles in and becomes an all-conference type of player, Oregon is developing as a team. Paul White is another player for them who is a really hard matchup.”
King, the five-star freshman, missed the first seven games while recovering from offseason knee surgery before gradually increasing his role with the Ducks. He is shooting 47.9 percent from the field in Pac-12 games, including 9-of-22 on three-pointers.
“I’m still not 100 percent, but I am close to getting there,” he said.
King moved into the starting lineup six games ago and has played at least 30 minutes in four straight.
“I don’t think people realize how hard it is when you don’t play for nine months and then you have only got two or three weeks of practice and then he was on a minutes restoration for three weeks,” Altman said. “He was rusty. If not playing for nine months doesn’t make a difference, then I’m not sure why we practice and play all year. I am shocked at how quickly he has come back. To sit out that long and then how quickly he came back is pretty good and obviously we needed it. He has really picked it up in the last three games since he has gotten in better shape. Conditioning is so important in rebounding so now that he has gotten in better shape, his rebounding numbers have picked up.”
With Bol Bol and Kenny Wooten for the past four games, King has been UO’s leading rebounder in the last three games. He is averaging 9.3 rebounds in conference games, which ranks second to Morris Brown of UCLA.
“Coach wanted me to go in and rebound and score so that is what I did,” King said.
Now Altman has some other areas he’d like to see King grow.
“We’ve got to get him to put it on the floor a bit more and get to the line,” the coach said. “Get those assists up a bit.”
White has scored 15, 16, and 19 points in the past three games to match or surpass his season high in each game.
“Paul is spectacular,” King said. “He rebounds and shoot’s ‘3’s’. On the defensive end he is real long and can push it himself sometimes.”
White had a seven-game stretch early in the season when he was 13-for-46 from the field, but has gone 18-for-34 in Pac-12 games.
“I hope he and Lou can continue connecting like they have been connecting,” Altman said.
— Junior guard Payton Pritchard at least temporarily halted a shooting slump by going 3-for-6 from the field against USC with all three baskets coming on three-pointers. Pritchard had gone 11-of-45 from the field in his previous four games.
“He needs to take good shots and continue to be aggressive,” Altman said. “He passed up a few good looks the other day and we need him to continue to be aggressive. Defenses are shifting a bit to him because they know he’s a big part of our offense. He needs to be more aggressive and getting to the free throw line will help him. Getting to the goal a bit to make more plays. Having a little tighter handle straight at the basket and try to get to the line a bit.”
Pritchard has not attempted a free throw in three of Oregon’s last five games, but is shooting 89.8 percent on the season.
Pritchard was 3-for-5 on three-pointers against USC after going 0-for-5 in Thursday’s loss to UCLA. As a team, Oregon improved from 25.0 percent on three-pointers against the Bruins to 54.2 percent against the Trojans.
“Hitting open shots is a big part of it,” Altman said. “We took 32 three-pointers against UCLA and I thought 29 were good looks, but we hit only eight. We took 24 against USC and in my estimation, 23 were good looks and we made 12. Those nights when you shoot it, it looks good and nights when they are not going down, it doesn’t quite look the same.”
— Arizona is smaller than usual this season and quite a bit different from last year when DeAndre Ayton and Dusan Ristic were in the paint. The Wildcats feature 6-10 junior Chase Jeter and will likely move 6-9 Ryan Luther into the lineup in place of Emmanuel Akot, who announced his transfer this week.
The Ducks have been starting 6-9 Francis Okoro with White and King, but have regularly gone with a three-guard lineup.
“(Altman) is really using his depth and young and his quickness to pressure teams,” Miller said. “They are trapping, full-court pressing and creating a ton of turnovers. … Guys are crashing the offensive glass. Guys who range from 6-2 to 6-9 and playing with tremendous effort.”
— Arizona sits alone in first place in the conference at 4-0 as it returns home to face the Ducks and Oregon State. Oregon is 1-2 as it begins what looks like the toughest road trip in the conference.
“I know they dropped one against UCLA, but they played a great game against USC,” Miller said. “Oregon is an outstanding program and we respect them a great deal. They always play us very tough. So we know that we are in for a really tough battle and they know what they are doing.”
UO is 4-3 since Bol was lost for the season with a broken foot, including a 2-2 mark with Wooten sidelined by a broken jaw. It is unclear if Wooten will be able to return to face Arizona wearing a facemark.
“They have had a couple of players that are hitting their stride,” Miller said. “Now that they have had some practices and game experience without Bol, they will continue to settle in and be the best they can be without him.”