Citizen Staff Writer
O’NEILL’S NOT-SO-SECRET WEAPONS: JERRYD BAYLESS AND CHASE BUDINGER
Interim coach Kevin O’Neill had it right on Friday: “All the stars were aligned” when Arizona beat No. 6 Washington State on Thursday.
He meant it jokingly, but he was on the money when it comes to his two stars – freshman Jerryd Bayless and sophomore Chase Budinger.
Arizona’s Killer Bs combined for 45 points, including a combined 7 of 13 from 3-point range in the 76-64 win.
When the duo can shoot three-pointers that well, Arizona is one of the better teams in the Pacific 10 Conference – if not the country.
California’s duo of Ryan Anderson and Patrick Christopher provide a more potent force in the Pac-10 when it comes to scoring. Those two combine for 38.4 points per contest.
Budinger and Bayless come in a close second at 36.8.
When both Budinger and Bayless are on, opponents can’t key on one or the other, resulting in plenty of scoring opportunities.
“I think what happens when one guy plays really well he draws a little more attention and frees the other guy up to get some opportunities,” O’Neill said.
Thursday was one of those nights. And the two couldn’t have been happier. They were laughing together, high-fiving one another and acknowledging each other’s accomplishments.
“We try to make plays for each other; we’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Bayless said.
Thursday’s combined output tied for the third most this season. The duo’s 46 points against Kansas came in the team’s lone loss when the duo scored 40 points or more.
In the three of the last four games, the two have had “A” games – 50 points (win over Houston), 22 points (a loss to Stanford), 42 (win over Cal) and now WSU.
“Let’s face it,” O’Neill said, “they get a lot of shots and we run a lot of plays for them. They are a big part of our offense. It’s important that when we are playing well that they are playing well . . . for us to play well, they have to play well.”
The two feed off one another – an unsaid dueling-banjos type of display that gets the team into an offensive flow.
That’s how practice was Friday as UA prepared for Washington.
“We always go at it,” Bayless said. “And when we’re on the court we’re both after the same thing (wins).”
As O’Neill said, “They’ve got a good feel for each other.”
The 40-point efforts would have been more numerous if Bayless hadn’t missed four games with a knee injury.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said had Bayless been healthy, UA could possibly be leading the Pac-10 Conference heading into Saturday’s game.
That’s up for debate. But what’s not debatable – at least to O’Neill – was that UA was headed in the right direction before the knee injury. Now, with Bayless back, the team has found some good footing because of the duo.
“When we were 9-2 we had started to gel pretty well,” O’Neill said. “And then we had the injury bug. It threw us off and it’s taken us a while to get back.”
TOP PAC-10 SCORING DUOS
• Cal (38.4): Ryan Anderson (21.9 points per game)-Patrick Christopher (16.5)
• UA (36.8): Jerryd Bayless (19.5)-Chase Budinger (17.3)
• USC (32.8): O.J. Mayo (19.7)-Davon Jefferson (13.1)
• ASU (32.3): James Harden (18.5)-Jeff Pendergraph (13.8)
• UCLA (31.6): Kevin Love (17.3)-Josh Shipp (14.3)
• Oregon (31.6): Malik Hairston (18.0)-Maarty Leunen (13.6)
Team Conf. Overall
UCLA 5-1 17-2
Washington State 4-2 16-2
Arizona State 4-2 14-4
Stanford 4-2 15-3
Arizona 3-3 13-6
USC 3-3 12-6
Washington 3-3 12-7
Oregon 3-4 12-7
California 2-4 11-6
Oregon State 0-7 6-13
Saturday’s games: Washington at Arizona, 1 p.m.; Stanford at California, 5 p.m.; Washington State at Arizona State, 5 p.m.; USC at Oregon, 7 p.m.; UCLA at Oregon State, 9 p.m.