Chase Budinger knows he must step up for Arizona, particularly with the team’s top scorer still sidelined.
With Jerryd Bayless likely to sit out again, the 21st-ranked Wildcats look for another solid game offensively from Budinger on Saturday when they host Oregon.
Bayless leads Arizona (10-3, 1-0 Pac-10) with 18.5 points per game, but is expected to miss his third straight game Saturday after spraining his right knee in practice last week. Coach Kevin O’Neill said earlier in the week he hoped Bayless could return by next Wednesday’s game against Arizona State.
The injury kept him out of Arizona’s 76-63 loss to No. 2 Memphis last Saturday and a 76-63 win over Oregon State on Thursday in the Pac-10 opener.
Budinger scored 20 points in both games, raising his season average to 16.3. The sophomore forward recovered from a slow start Thursday to score 11 points in the final seven minutes.
“I was not being very aggressive in the first half,” Budinger said. “In the locker room I kind of got chewed out for that. I tried to change my mentality and went out there and went all out and attacked everything I could.”
O’Neill said the Wildcats cannot afford for Budinger to take that long to get into a rhythm. Arizona trailed most of the first half Thursday and didn’t take a permanent lead until there was 8:50 remaining in the game.
“Chase has got to step up for us and do the things he did tonight in the second half,” O’Neill said, “and avoid the kind of play he had in the first half, when he gets a little bit lethargic and satisfied to just run around. We need him to be the focal point of our offense.”
Budinger scored 30 points in Arizona’s win at Oregon last season, but combined for 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting in the other two meetings and the Wildcats lost both. The last of those games came in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals, with the Ducks winning 69-50.
Their 79-77 victory at the McKale Center last season was just the program’s sixth in 29 all-time visits to Tucson.
Oregon (9-4, 0-1), though, has suffered all four of its losses this season away from home, including a 62-54 defeat to Arizona State on Thursday in its Pac-10 opener.
It was the third loss in four games overall for the Ducks, who were held to their lowest point total of the season. They led by six with seven minutes to play only to let the Sun Devils go on a 13-2 run and take the lead for good with 4:57 remaining.
Malik Hairston led Oregon with 14 points, dropping his team-leading average to 17.3 per game, while Bryce Taylor had 13 points and six rebounds. Maarty Leunen added 12 points and six boards, failing to record a double-double for only the fifth time all season.
The Ducks won their only game this season against a ranked opponent, beating then-No. 25 Kansas State 80-77 in overtime on Nov. 29.