Azuolas Tubelis smiled on Wednesday night. Well, maybe smirked for a second.
I know because I saw it. My non-lying eyes saw it. It came when asked about his Christmas plans in 10 days. He’ll be headed to Phoenix to spend time with his brother, Tautvilas, and Tautvila’s girlfriend, Taylor.
It’s proof that he does have an emotional bone in his body. He could as well have smiled when he looked at his statistics after No. 8 Arizona defeated visiting Northern Colorado, 101-76, in McKale Center.
He had 16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in Arizona’s tougher-than-expected victory that moved Arizona to 10-0 on the season.
Teammate Christian Koloko added 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
The duo inside was the difference late as UA pulled away. They were the difference early too, when Northern Colorado stayed close behind Daylen Kountz’s 23 first-half points. He finished with 33 points.
“They played only one big man,” Tubelis said, of Arizona taking advantage of the mismatch. “Offensively, I just need to dominate the paint. I think I did it well. I want to thank my teammates who fed me, and I just scored the ball.”
He did other things as well, creating problems on the perimeter, getting three steals and a couple of blocks. He’s now had an impact in two games with his perimeter defense. For a big man, that’s not common.
“There’s no secrets,” he said of his ability to do it. “We just need to pressure the ball every time. Don’t let easy catches. I don’t know, I think I’m pretty good at it. I’ll continue to do that.”
And, oh, let’s not forget about those eight assists.
“It’s just the way we moved the ball,” he said of the assists. “If I see the open teammate, I pass him the ball and he scores. That’s it. They scored well and that’s why I had eight.”
He said it all in his near robotic cadence. But that’s Tubelis, who through a few games this year and last year hasn’t shown much emotion on the court.
It begged my question: What excites you?
“I don’t know, maybe it’s just outside (that he doesn’t show it),” he said. “But, I’m very happy (and) very proud of my teammates.”
His response brought a laugh and smile to Justin Kier, who sat next to Tubelis on the postgame podium.
“He loves his guys and we love him as well,” Kier said. “He’s always happy. You might not see it in his face.”
More importantly, coach Tommy Lloyd knows when Tubelis is happy.
“I can tell when he’s excited; I know what it looks like,” Lloyd said. “It may not look like when you or I are excited. He gets a look to him. He kind of pauses and gets a look a little. He gets his head up.”
You might have seen it in the game a time or two. Or, you make have missed it. Until next time when that smirk might be a full-blown smile. You never know.