There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis as No. 5 Arizona goes for its sixth consecutive victory Saturday against Oregon State in Tucson, Ariz.
Tubelis threatened multiple Arizona scoring records Thursday in a 91-76 victory over visiting Oregon before “settling” for a career-high 40 points.
Tubelis was one point from tying the mark for points at McKale Center by an Arizona player, and six away from the record for most points in any game by a Wildcat. He didn’t score in the final 7:33, often passing to open teammates and deciding not to attack in the final minute when the game was out of reach.
Tubelis is well on his way to Pac-12 Player of the Year honors and first-team All-America nods. The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian leads the conference in scoring (20.9 points per game) and rebounding (9.6) and is shooting 57.2 percent from the field. He runs the court as well as any big man in the country and can finish with a variety of clever moves around the basket.
“Zu was spectacular tonight. Just the way the ball was coming off his hand was something special,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said after the Oregon game.
“Zu’s activity was better, and our guys found him,” Lloyd said. “A lot of his baskets, if you watched in the first half, was him moving a few feet here, a few feet there, presenting himself, and our guys found him in open pockets. He had one of those nights.”
Tubelis has had a lot of those nights for Arizona (20-3, 9-3 Pac-12), which is in second place in the conference, a half-game back of UCLA. Oregon State (9-14, 3-9) is coming off a 68-57 loss at Arizona State on Thursday.
Tubelis had 25 points and 10 rebounds when the Wildcats withstood a late rally to defeat the Beavers 86-74 on Jan. 12 in Corvallis, Ore. Arizona built a 24-point second-half lead, although Oregon State provided a scare by rallying within 72-62 with 5:04 left.
Unlike Arizona, the Beavers have struggled offensively for much of the season and greatly prefer a slow place that will limit the number of possessions in a game. Jordan Pope has led the team in scoring in each of the past four games and is averaging a team-high 12.7 points per game. Glenn Taylor Jr. is the only other Oregon State player averaging double-digit points (11.2).
Pope, a point guard who is easily the team’s best and most prolific 3-point shooter (38.1 percent, 45 of 118) has won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks.
“He’s got an edge to him,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “He’s got a chip that wants to help us get back to where we expect to be.”
The Beavers have lost 26 of their past 27 games on road or neutral courts.
Arizona’s point guard, Kerr Kriisa, also has been playing at a high level recently. He has drilled 15 of 29 3-point attempts in the past three games. He had a double-double against Oregon State last month, pairing 13 points with 11 assists.
The Wildcats have won six in a row in the series, and 13 of the past 14 meetings. Oregon State is on 10-game skid at McKale Center, having last won in Tucson on Feb. 13, 2010.
–Field Level Media