TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)Azuolas Tubelis dribbled the ball around a defender in transition, kept his stride on the other side and threw down a one-handed dunk.
A spectacular move for anyone. Nearly implausible for a 6-foot-11, 245-pound power forward.
Tubelis scored 26 points, including two on his dribble-around dunk, and No. 5 Arizona closed out its nonconference schedule by overpowering Morgan State 93-68 on Thursday night.
”I don’t know if he can recreate that again – I’ve seen some things that haven’t worked,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. ”But Zu is really coming on. He’s so consistent and scores in different ways.”
The Wildcats (12-1) were coming off a pair of tests in wins over No. 8 Tennessee and Montana State, NCAA Tournament teams a year ago. Arizona had another fight on its hands early against the scrappy Bears (4-8), one of the nation’s best teams at creating defensive chaos.
Morgan State’s aggressive defense caused some early problems and the Bears got hot from the 3-point line to keep it close.
Then the Wildcats turned into bullies.
Arizona scored 28 more points in the paint and used a 17-2 run spanning halftime to give Lloyd a tie for the second-best start (45-5) after 50 games in Division I history. Only Wisconsin’s Doc Meanwell had a better start at 49-1 in the early 1900s.
Tubelis finished 9 for 10 from the floor and had the highlight of the night, dribbling the ball around Morgan State’s Isaiah Burke in transition to set up a one-handed jam. Oumar Ballo made all eight of his shots and scored 21 points, completing Arizona’s dominance inside.
They helped Arizona shoot 58% and have 25 assists on 34 field goals to stretch the nation’s third-longest active home winning streak to 27 games.
Malik Miller kept Morgan State in it early with 3-point shooting and finished with 23 points. Burke added 22, but the Bears were blown out despite shooting 12 of 23 from the 3-point arc.
”They did a good job in 3s today, but I think it was good for us to battle back, not get too worried, just remain calm and stick to our principles and our game plan,” said Arizona’s Courtney Ramey, who had 13 points and seven assists.
Arizona had to get physical to beat Tennessee and made 10 3-pointers to beat Montana State.
Morgan State presented a different problem: hands.
The Bears lead the nation in forcing turnovers and are second in steals. Morgan State had some success disrupting Arizona early (eight first-half turnovers), but its sharpshooting backcourt caused the Wildcats the most problems.
Miller had 11 points and three 3s in the first 5 1/2 minutes, then Burke took over from there, scoring nine points – all on 3-pointers. They combined for 23 of Morgan State’s 32 first-half points, hitting 6 of 8 from the 3-point arc.
”They hit a few shots and made us uncomfortable,” Lloyd said. ”These games aren’t going to be just a 40-minute fast-break frenzy or dunk contest.”
Where the Bears were no match was inside.
Tubelis and Ballo wore Morgan State out inside, combining for 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting. They also repeatedly beat the Bears down the floor for baskets in transition, helping Arizona close on a 7-0 run to lead 41-32 at halftime.
Arizona ended it in a flurry.
Tubelis scored inside, then hit a 3-pointer. Ramey hit a 3-pointer and Ballo threw down and thunderous dunk.
The 10-2 run put Arizona up 51-34, well on its way to another home win.
Morgan State didn’t back down in one of the nation’s toughest road environments, but got worn down by the biggest Wildcats.
Arizona avoided a letdown to close out its nonconference schedule, manhandling the Bears to put Lloyd in the record books.
Morgan State: plays at Hartford on Dec. 30.
Arizona: plays at rival Arizona State on Dec. 31.
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