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ASU Basketball: White paces Sun Devils in blowout win over Cal

Party in the paint

NCAA Basketball: California at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Behind the emergence of the ‘Guard U’ moniker of the Arizona State Sun Devils was the constant threat of post presence. Even if one of its senior guards slumped, ASU had a saving grace in freshman forward Romello White.

Thursday, that presence came back as the Sun Devils (20-9, 8-9 Pac-12) knocked off the California Golden Bears 84-53 at Wells Fargo Arena, aided by White’s sixth double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

At the beginning of the season, 13 and 11 seemed more like an expectation than an exception. Playing against smaller post players, White dominated the competition and made life easier for the guards whizzing around him.

Double-doubles in two of his first three games set a high bar for the newcomer, but he lived up to it for most of ASU’s non-conference schedule, entering Pac-12 play averaging around 15 points and eight rebounds per outing.

But conference play is a different animal, and White’s production became less consistent.

White’s minutes fluctuated because of various foul trouble, often prohibiting him to get into the flow of a game and preventing the Sun Devils from matching their opponents production in the paint.

Acclimating to larger defenders and more skilled competition, White reached double figures in scoring just five times in 16 Pac-12 games entering Thursday and he hadn’t done it since a February 4 win over Washington State.

With bully ball no longer an option, he was left with only one option: adapt.

“At the beginning of the season, I had, like, one move that I would usually go to,” White said. “After a while, people started to get on to it. Coach (Bobby) Hurley, my guards were telling me to use my left hand and use up fakes, so I tried to mix it up today. I feel like I did that.”

In 24 minutes against Cal, the 6-8 forward missed just one shot from the field — a dunk — and made three of his six free throws, making hacking him not an option. Staying in front of him became an obstacle, but not one White felt the Golden Bears cared to clear.

“I felt like they were lazy,” White said. “I would just walk in front of them, dunking them in, getting deep post touches. If they’re going to play like that, why not attack them?

“They played defense like that and I had to do what I had to do.”

If the Sun Devils want a lengthy postseason run, White will have to keep doing what he does all the way through.