After NCAA struggles, Arizona’s Tubelis put in work to elevate game

Michael Taylor
Michael Taylor

Azuolas Tubelis #10 of the Arizona Wildcats shoots against Will McClendon #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of the championship game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 11, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The All-American honors, the Pac-12 Tournament MOP award, leading the conference in scoring and rebounding, those were all just byproducts of the goal.

When Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis spent nearly all of last summer in Tucson working out twice or sometimes three times a day, it was about developing into one of college basketball’s best players — and about what is happening now.

It was about being able to lead the Wildcats through the NCAA Tournament.

That didn’t happen last year. Last season’s NCAA Tournament planted a furious bug inside the Wildcats’ mild-mannered but hyper-skilled big man from Lithuania. He had just five points and four rebounds against TCU in a second-round overtime game the Wildcats barely escaped. Then two points, four turnovers and 0-for-8 shooting against Houston in a Sweet 16 game that sent the Wildcats home.

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