TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Kevin O’Neill accomplished something Lute Olson couldn’t do. He coached Arizona to a victory in his first Pac-10 game.
O’Neill, the interim coach of the 21st-ranked Wildcats while Olson takes a leave of absence and the designated heir when the Hall of Famer retires, gave his team a pep talk after a lethargic first half.
It was effective. The Wildcats pulled away for a 76-63 victory over Oregon State Thursday night in the first conference game for both teams.
Chase Budinger scored 11 of his 20 points over the final seven minutes for Arizona (10-3). Jordan Hill had 20 points and 14 rebounds and Nic Wise, starting in place of injured freshman point guard Jerryd Bayless, scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
Wise had 12 points in the second half when the Wildcats outscored the Beavers 50-31.
Hill, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, was 8-for-11 from the field, 5-for-6 in the second half.
“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 Budinger has a tendency to get down on himself when he isn’t playing well.
“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.”
Freshman Omari Johnson, playing just his fifth game after missing the first 13 with an injured right cheekbone, scored a season-best 19 for the Beavers (6-7), while Seth Tarver added 13.
“I was pleased with the effort tonight,” Oregon State coach Jay John said. “We are gradually building chemistry on this young time. I thought we came out early and took it to them. We just weren’t able to close tonight.”
Bayless, Arizona’s leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, missed his second straight game with a sprained right knee. He is expected to sit out Saturday’s game against Oregon.
Hill scored seven points in a decisive 12-3 run that put the Wildcats ahead 59-51.
“That is my game,” Hill said. “I have to come out and jump on them and do what I have to do. I was getting open in the box—get the ball and go up and go strong and handle my business.”
Budinger capped the outburst with a 3-pointer, just his second basket in nine shots.
Oregon State didn’t have starter C.J. Giles, who was benched for disciplinary reasons.
“We could have used C.J. tonight,” John said, “but when you show up late for two practices it is a pretty easy call.”
The Beavers led 42-35 with 13 minutes remaining.
But Arizona picked up the tempo in a 9-0 run to take its first lead since the opening minutes, 47-44, on Daniel Dillon’s 3-pointer with 11:10 to play. Budinger started the spurt with four field goals, then Wise’s fastbreak basket tied it at 44-44.
Arizona had one field goal in a 4 1/2 -minute span late in the first half. Hill’s inside basket cut the lead to 27-25 with 2:17 to play, but Roeland Schaftenaar made a 3-pointer, then Calvin Hampton scored inside to put Oregon State up 32-25 1:17 before the half.
“After knowing we could play with them, our confidence level is pretty high despite the outcome,” Johnson said. “We have to do a better job on the glass and play tough defense, but we are starting to see progress.”
Oregon State hasn’t won at Arizona since 1983.