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Arizona men’s basketball cruises to win at Stanford but loses Azuolas Tubelis to injury

Thank heavens for Oumar Ballo

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-stanford-cardinal-preview-pac12-championship-letdown-rebounding Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

This probably isn’t sustainable, but each time Arizona has something go wrong with one of its starters there’s at least one guy coming off the bench ready to fill the void.

Oumar Ballo had a career-high 21 points and Pelle Larsson added 13 with six assists, stepping in for an injured Azuolas Tubelis and a foul-prone Christian Koloko to lead the third-ranked Wildcats to a 85-57 win at Stanford on Thursday night.

Ballo, a Gonzaga transfer who came in averaging 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in only 12.9 minutes per game, was 7 of 8 from the field and 7 of 9 from the line and also had six rebounds and two blocks. Larsson was 5 of 8 from the field and Justin Kier added 11 on 5-of-6 shooting as the UA bench outscored Stanford’s 45-26.

Arizona (15-1, 5-0 Pac-12) got Kerr Kriisa back after he missed the Utah game following an unfortunate pregame meal mishap, but the Wildcats had to play most of Thursday without its other Baltic standout, as Tubelis suffered a left ankle injury less than seven minutes into the game and did not return.

Tubelis, who was coming off a career-high 32 against Utah, had 4 points and 2 rebounds before exiting. He spent the rest of the first half with ice on his left ankle and then emerged after halftime with a boot on the left foot.

Add in Koloko playing only 2 ½ minutes in the first half and picking up his third foul 38 seconds into the second half and Ballo became the only frontcourt player available. Arizona was so thin it played extended minutes in the first half with no player taller than 6-foot-7 Dalen Terry on the court.

It didn’t matter who was on the court, though, as Arizona shot 55.4 and forced 17 turnovers, including eight on drawn cahrges, while Stanford (10-6, 3-3) shot only 30 percent.

The Wildcats had five players in double figures, with Bennedict Mathurin topping the starters with 13 (all coming in the first 12 minutes of the game) and Terry going for 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The UA led 42-31 at halftime after leading by as many as 18 in the first half. It got the edge up to 20 less than four minutes into the second half, with Stanford never getting closer than 18 after that.

Stanford turned it over five times in the first 3-plus minutes, including charges drawn by Kriisa and Terry, helping Arizona jump out to a 12-2 lead. Larsson hit a 3-pointer to extend the margin to 30-16 with 7:52 remaining, and his layup with 2:32 remaining gave the Wildcats a 40-22 edge.

The Cardinal’s best offense in the first half was the 3, making 6 of 12 including three by Spencer Jones. They were 1 of 11 from 3 in the second half.

Arizona continues its 3-game road swing on Sunday afternoon when it visits Cal (9-9, 2-5). The Wildcats have won nine straight over the Golden Bears, the last six by an average of 17.8 points.