TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Azuolas Tubelis scored 26 points, Oumar Ballo added 21 and No. 5 Arizona closed out its nonconference schedule by overpowering Morgan State 93-68 on Thursday night.
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 did cause some early problems and kept the Wildcats within reach from the 3-point line.
The Wildcats turned into bullies.
Arizona scored 28 more points in the paint and used a 17-2 run spanning halftime to give coach Tommy 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.
Arizona shot 58% and had 25 assists on 34 field goals to stretch the nation’s third-longest active home winning streak to 27 games.
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. Ballo made all eight of his shots.
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.
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.
Where the Bears were no match was inside.
Tubelis and Balo 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. Courtney 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.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25