Azuolas Tubelis had by far the best game of his young college career. And it was completely wasted.
Tubelis scored a career-high 31 points but got almost no help from his teammates as the Arizona Wildcats had their four-game win streak snapped in an 87-73 loss to USC on Thursday night in McKale Center.
The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian freshman went 11 for 16 from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. He also made 7 of 9 free throws and added eight rebounds and three assists. But the rest of Arizona (9-2, 3-2 Pac-12) was 14 of 46 from the field and 2 of 12 from 3.
Starting guards James Akinjo, Jemarl Baker Jr. and Dalen Terry combined for just 5 points on 2-of-19 shooting, with Akinjo missing all eight shots and Baker going 1 for 7. Reserves Ben Mathurin (11) and Terrell Brown Jr. (10) were the only Wildcats besides Tubelis to score in double figures.
As if Arizona’s unbalanced offense was bad enough, it could not stop USC (7-2, 2-1) on the other end. The Trojans, who had lost 10 in a row in Tucson and hadn’t won there since 2008, shot 58.5 percent for the game including 75 percent in the second half, making 8 of 14 3s.
Arizona trailed 35-34 at halftime but quickly went ahead on a 3-pointer by Tubelis, the first of 12 lead changes over the first 7:03 of the second half.
But Tubelis had to go to the bench with 12:32 left after picking up his third foul, part of a double foul after he and USC’s Chavez Goodwin got tied up in the paint. That came as USC’s Noah Baumann drained a 3-pointer, then a 3 by Isaiah Mobley put the Trojans up 60-53 with 12:08 to go as they began the half 10 of 12 from the field.
USC never trailed after that.
The Wildcats got within 60-56 but the inability of anyone other than Tubelis to make a basket prevented them from getting closer. USC upped the lead to 68-58 on a pair of funks in a six-second span, one on a putback flush by Evan Mobley and then a slam by Isaiah White after a UA turnover.
Arizona again got the deficit down to four on three occasions, only to see USC pad the lead not long after. The Wildcats had a chance to make it a one-score game after getting a shot clock violation, but Tubelis traveled under the basket and the Trojans scored on consecutive possessions to make it 77-68 with 4:01 to go.
The UA made only one field goal in the final 7:27 of play.
Tubelis had Arizona’s first seven points of the game, with no other Wildcat scoring until Terrell Brown made two free throws with 14:47 left. Christian Koloko’s dunk shortly after was the first field goal made by a UA player other than Tubelis, as the non-Azuolas contingent was 5 of 24 in the first half.
USC missed eight of its first nine shots, allowing Arizona to lead 15-6, but then the Trojans used a 10-0 run to go up five and hold the lead nearly the remainder of the first half. The exception was 25-second span following a Tubelis putback with 2:33 left.
Arizona will try to avoid a weekend sweep at home when it hosts the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night. The Wildcats have lost three in a row against UCLA, including the last two at McKale.