To all Pac-12 Player of the Year voters: Azuolas Tubelis just made your decision a lot easier.
Tubelis scored a career-high 40 points, one off the McKale Center record for an Arizona player, and the fifth-ranked Wildcats used an early 21-2 run to take control en route to a 91-76 win over Oregon on Thursday night.
The victory avenged last month’s 19-point loss in Eugene, improving Arizona (20-3, 9-3 Pac-12) to 5-0 in revenge games under Tommy Lloyd.
Tubelis was 16 of 21 from the field, making 12 straight shots at one point, was 7 of 8 from the line and also had nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Another board would have given him the second 40-10 game in school history.
The other was by Al Fleming, who scored a UA-McKale record 41 with 11 rebounds in 1976. And as fate would have it, Fleming was posthumously inducted into Arizona’s Ring of Honor during halftime on Thursday night.
Overall, it was tied for the sixth-most points by a UA player in school history, most since Damon Stoudmamire had 40 at Washington State in 1995 and most at McKale since Khalid Reeves had 40 in 1993.
Arizona shot 60 percent in the second half, when it led by double digits throughout, and 53.4 percent for the game. It was 10 of 23 from 3, with Kerr Kriisa nailing four (including two late daggers) to make him 15 of 29 from deep in the past three games, finishing with 13 points and seven assists.
Arizona led 50-35 at the half but turned it over on its first three possessions after the break )after only committing five first-half turnovers) as Oregon turned to a 1-3-1 defense to try and slow Tubelis down and deal with foul trouble to its bigs. N’Faly Dante had three fouls in the first half and Nate Bittle picked up his fourth less than two minutes into the second half.
Dante, who had a career-high 22 with 10 rebounds in Oregon’s 87-68 win over Arizona in Eugene, was held to 13 points and three rebounds.
Slowing Tubelis didn’t work. He made four straight shots, getting to 35 on a jumper with 12:45 left to put the Wildcats up 71-51 before going to the bench after picking up his second foul.
A 3-pointer by Will Richardson and a foul underneath on Ballo (leading to two Dante free throws) cut the margin to 71-56 with 11:10 left, bringing Tubelis back in only to get his third foul 40s seconds later.
The Ducks trailed by 13 when Dante smacked Kriisa in the face, dropping him to the floor and stopping action, but on review no foul was called. But in typical ball-don’t-lie fashion, Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier missed a dunk right after play resumed and Arizona went on a 10-2 run with Tubelis getting to 40 on a 3-point play with 7:33 remaining.
A 7-0 Oregon run got it within 81-70 with 5:57 left, and the Ducks got the deficit down to 10 with 2:43 to go but couldn’t get closer. Kriisa’s third 3 iced it with 1:15 remaining, then Tubelis swatted a shot into the stands on the other end before Kriisa drained another triple.
Arizona came out flat to start, missing its first three shots and turning it over once to fall behind 5-0. But following a quick timeout the Wildcats exploded for 10 straight points, then another 11 in a row after Oregon hit a long 2 late in the shot clock and suddenly it was 21-7.
The Ducks made four shots in a row, cutting the margin to 23-17, but Arizona had it back to double digits a minute later. And when Oregon got within 31-25 with 5:55 left in the first half, Courtney Ramey drained his second 3 to start a 7-0 run.
Tubelis had the final four points of that run, then seven in a 9-2 run and capped the first-half scoring with a breakaway dunk in the final minute to get to 27.
Arizona returns to action Saturday night against Oregon State (9-14, 3-9). The Beavers lost 68-57 at ASU on Thursday.