Arizona basketball looks to Lyons for scoring prowess
Mark Lyons is not Josiah Turner, let’s get that out of the way now.
While Turner plays for the Halifax Rainmen of the National Basketball League of Canada, after just one suspension-filled season at the UA, Lyons is tied for the team’s leading scorer through five games at 14.0 points per game.
“Mark is a great leader, great scorer, great point guard,” sophomore guard Nick Johnson said.
That last part is still up in the air.
At Xavier, Lyons spent the majority of his time playing off the ball with Terrell “Tu” Holloway running the point. After transferring to the UA in the summer, Lyons was handed the starting point guard job at a school known for its rich point guard history.
In the early going, Lyons appears to still be going through an adjustment period.
He has 12 assists for fourth on the team and 15 turnovers through five games, and only on one occasion, in the season opener against Charleston Southern, did Lyons record more assists than turnovers.
Head coach Sean Miller doesn’t sound too worried though, as he believes Lyons is still in a learning phase despite his position as a fifth-year senior.
“He’s played basketball [at Xavier] for four years but hasn’t really been at point guard,” Miller said after a 93-50 win against NAU on Nov. 28. “He’s still in game four of being in charge of everybody and everything.”
Game five didn’t go much better. Against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, Lyons scored a solid 14 points, but didn’t record a single assist and had four turnovers.
Johnson’s turnover-free performance this season has begged the question of whether or not he should take over Lyons’ spot and run the point.
Johnson has 21 assists against four turnovers — in the last three games he has 13 assists and one turnover — but Miller doesn’t anticipate moving Johnson away from his more natural shooting guard position.
“There’s a big difference playing like a point guard when there’s another guy out there in charge of running your team,” Miller said. “The reason he plays the way he’s playing right now, he has a lot of confidence in playing the game the way he’s playing. The burden of what play do you want and the offense and handling pressure and traps … that adds to your plate and it can certainly take away some of the things we’re doing.”
Although he might not be fully functional as the starting point guard just yet, his scoring prowess has lived up to the hype after with his 1,194 points as a Musketeer.
He’s shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field, and if not for a four-point performance against Long Beach State, he’d be scoring 16.5 points per game. Plus, because the Wildcats have blown opponents out by an average of 28.5 points in the last four games, Lyons has only played 24 minutes per game in that stretch.
At Xavier he averaged 31.9 and 35.1 minutes per game the last two seasons.
If Arizona is going to be successful this year, though, it will need Lyons to become more efficient in the passing game.
And while moving Lyons off the ball and Johnson to the point might seem logical, based off their respective early-season production, Miller doesn’t feel the need to make a switch.
“Right now I want to keep Nick locked in on [the two],” Miller said. “The one thing he does do makes the game easier for the point guard he’s playing with because he’s doing some of the things you like a point guard to do. I like keeping him right where he’s at.”