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Career night for Azuolas Tubelis not enough as Arizona falls to USC

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Arizona Wildcats' Azuolas Tubelis attempts to block USC's Drew Peterson's shot attempt on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona in the McKale Center. The Wildcats would lose the game 87-73. (Courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics)

Despite what was a career night by Azuolas Tubelis dropping 31 points, it wasn’t enough as the Arizona Wildcats fell 87-73 against the USC Trojans Thursday, Jan. 7, in McKale Center. It ended a four-game winning streak for Arizona, bringing them to 9-2 in the season.

“Our defense was not on point, especially in the second half,” senior Ira Lee said. “We were going back-and-forth in the first half, but you know the second half they started hitting shots. I think they came out in the second half 10-12, so you know it is hard to beat a team when they only miss two shots. Next game we got to be better, got to get on point and get back to what we usually do.”

After a back-and-forth first half, it was all USC in the second half as they shot 21-28 from the field. They seemed to get everything and anything they wanted, both in the paint and on the outside. 

“This isn’t a stat sheet you see very often,” head coach Sean Miller said. "USC was 21-28 in the second half from the field. I give them a lot of credit.” 

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Tubelis got off to a hot start scoring the first six points of the game and did not seem to lose his touch all night, doing a little bit of everything for Arizona including the dirty work down low. Tubelis more than doubled his previous career-high of 13 points, also adding in eight rebounds. Despite the career night, Tubelis didn’t seem to be pleased following the game with the Wildcats still unable to come away with the victory. 

“I feel more comfortable now, but we still lost this game,” Tubelis said. “Not a great feeling right now.”

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In what was another rather off night for both James Akinjo and Jemarl Baker Jr. from the field, combining for 1-16 from the field, we once again saw freshman Bennedict Mathurin and senior Terrell Brown Jr. pick up the scoring off the bench, combining for 21 points after combining for 39 points in the double overtime win against Washington State last Saturday. 

“[Baker] and [Akinjo] have been very good for our team,” Miller said. “Not every game is going to go a player’s way but in the Pac-12, it is going to be hard for us to overcome 1-15 from our starting backcourt, 1-15 and 0-7 from three. The loss doesn’t fall on their shoulders at all. It is just every team in the country starts a backcourt, a point guard and a two and when that starting backcourt goes 1-15, you know that’s an uphill battle.” 

"Our shooting with those guys because clearly they are better than that, coupled with just our inability to get stops, we were overwhelmed," Miller said. "USC deserves all the credit in the world. They came in here and they took it to us. They were the better team.”

This was expected to be a physical game down low as both teams combined to have seven players listed at 6-foot-9 or taller, and it lived up to that billing as there was a lot of contact felt between both teams. 

The Trojans were led by star freshman Evan Mobley, who seemed to get whatever he wanted down low as he dropped 19 points on 7-13 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds, two steals and one block. USC also saw Isaiah White drop a season-high 22 points, including 3-5 from beyond the arc. 

“Coming into the game, [White] was a borderline double figure scorer, more of a power forward, big forward playing a small forward position,” Miller said. “He is doing a really good job for their team, but he went 3-5 from three and had 22 points.”

The Wildcats will be back in action on Saturday, Jan. 9, against the UCLA Bruins in McKale Center as they look to get back on track on the winning end. The opening tip is currently scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST and the game will be aired on ESPN. 


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