TEMPE, Ariz. — There was a seven-game stretch this season when Paul White never made more than three shots from the field while missing more attempts than he made in six of those games.
“He was really struggling and put too much pressure on himself because he wanted to have a great senior year,” Oregon coach Dana Altman reasoned.
Altman brought White off the bench for two games to try and relieve some of that pressure. When Bol Bol was lost for the season with a broken foot, White was back in the starting lineup for Oregon’s 66-54 win over Boise State on Dec. 15 when he scored 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
White has followed up by scoring in double digits during seven of UO’s past eight games, including a career-high 19 points in last Sunday’s 81-60 win over USC. He led the Ducks in scoring again with 16 points in Thursday’s 59-54 win at Arizona.
“I think it is about me being comfortable, trusting my skills,” White said. “I am telling myself that it is just a game, so don’t put too much pressure on myself. Just go out and handle my business. The confidence my coaches and teammates have makes me feel comfortable out there.”
After scoring 8.0 points per game in Oregon’s first nine games, White is averaging 13.9 in the past eight while shooting 51.9 percent from the field.
“Paul works hard,” said sophomore guard Victor Bailey, who lives with White. “I might be biased, but I love to see him playing well. I have full trust in him.”
White had 11 points and four rebounds in the second half against Arizona as Oregon never trailed in the second half after leading 31-23 at halftime.
When the Wildcats closed within 34-26 early in the second half, White had a layup and three-pointer on consecutive possessions. He drew a charge a few minutes later that kept Oregon ahead 39-30.
Arizona trailed 45-41 before White converted a layup with 6:52 left to play. After Bailey missed a layup, White got a tip-in to put the Ducks ahead 51-43 with 4:41 left to go.
“It was just important for us to make some big plays on the offensive and defensive end,” White said. “This is a great win to take to Arizona State.”
The Ducks (11-6, 2-2) seek a road sweep when they visit ASU (12-5, 3-2) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Back-to-back victories have moved Oregon into a tie for sixth place in the conference.
“(Arizona) was a good win for us, but now Saturday is another challenge so we need to get ready for that one,” Altman said.
Oregon limited UA to 36.5 percent shooting from the field, its worst mark in a home game since shooting 32.0 percent in a 90-73 loss to Oregon on Jan. 12, 1980. The Wildcats had their lowest scoring output since losing 53-51 to Colorado on March 10, 2012.
“Going on the road you win by guarding and rebounding,” said Altman, noting the Ducks shot 38.6 percent from the field in the victory. “Offensively, we were not very smooth. We missed some good looks right around the basket. It’s not like we were sharp, but we made enough plays.”
Oregon has the top-ranked defense in the Pac-12 by allowing 64.2 points per game. Kenny Wooten blocked a shot and altered severalothers in 25 minutes when returned to face Arizona following a four-game absence due to a fractured jaw.
Oregon forced eight Arizona turnovers in the first 14 minutes to build a lead it never relinquished.
“We’ve got to keep at it and have even more energy going to Arizona State,” Bailey said. “Keep our foot on the gas pedal.”