Azuolas Tubelis scores career-high 40 points in No. 5 Arizona’s win over Oregon
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Azuolas Tubelis took his family and friends from Lithuania to breakfast in the morning, then to see the desert surrounding Tucson.
After a 40-minute nap, the Arizona big man arrived at McKale Center and started roasting Ducks.
Not a bad way to show off for his mother and sister.
Tubelis scored 40 points, most by an Arizona player in 28 years, and the fifth-ranked Wildcats avenged an earlier loss to Oregon with a 91-76 rout Thursday night.
“She didn’t see me like basically the first two years, so it was pretty cool,” Tubelis said of his mother. “Her friends are supporting here, too. They all flew here on Monday. It’s really cool. I think she’s proud of me.”
The Ducks (13-10, 7-5 Pac-12) manhandled Arizona 87-68 at home last month in Arizona’s biggest loss under coach Tommy Lloyd.
The Wildcats (20-3, 10-3) returned the favor with a dominant performance, riding an early 21-2 run to a 15-point halftime lead. Arizona kept its foot on the gas from there, shooting 54% and dishing out 23 assists on 31 field goals.
Tubelis was the catalyst.
Limited to 14 points in the first meeting, the 6-foot-11 Lithuanian overpowered and outran the Ducks in transition, hitting 16 of 21 shots. It was the most points by an Arizona player since Damon Stoudamire had 40 against Washington State in 1995.
Tubelis didn’t score in the final 7 1/2 minutes and fell one point shy of the McKale Center record set in 1976 by Al Fleming, who was honored posthumously at halftime.
“What he did today, I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Arizona point guard Kerr Kriisa said. “I’ve never witnessed anything like this.”
Oregon won the first meeting by shooting 53% from the floor and outmuscling the Wildcats in the paint.
This time, Arizona grounded the Ducks early with stifling defense and crisp offense, using a 21-2 run to build an early 14-point lead.
Oregon tried to get back in it, but Tubelis seemed to have an answer each time.
With N’Faly Dante on the bench in foul trouble, the athletic big man bulled his way through Oregon’s lankier frontcourt players for a trio of three-point plays.
Tubelis had 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the first half, putting Arizona up 50-35 on a breakaway dunk with 27 seconds left that sent roars echoing off the McKale Center ceiling.
“We didn’t take away strengths,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We let him get to that left hand, right shoulder time and time again, and he’s going to score. He’s talented that way.”
Oregon again tried to make a run starting the second half, but Tubelis turned back the Ducks once more. He hit a jumper, scored on a reverse layup and beat Oregon’s big men down the floor for a dunk. Kriisa hit two 3-pointers and Cedric Henderson Jr. added another to put Arizona up 69-51.
Will Richardson had 20 points to lead the Ducks, who rallied late to pull within 10 in the closing minutes.
“We gave up a lot of easy baskets and Tubelis really got going, went to his strengths, and we couldn’t slow him down,” Altman said.
Oregon: The Ducks’ dominance of Arizona came to a crashing end. Oregon had won eight of nine in the series, including three of four in Tucson, but took an early body blow and had no answer for Tubelis all night.
Arizona: The loss at Oregon on Jan. 14 seemed to spark the Wildcats. Arizona has won six straight since and is back to playing the type of basketball that led to early-season Final Four projections.
Kriisa struggled to get shots to fall early in the game before hitting four 3-pointers in the second half.
He ran Arizona’s offense effectively all night, making good decisions and keeping it flowing against Oregon’s pressure defense.
“He did a really good job controlling the game and in managing their defenses,” Lloyd said. “A lot of good decisions.”
Kriisa finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3 with seven assists and two turnovers.
Arizona hosts Oregon State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Oregon plays at Arizona State on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.