On the Mark: Lyons leads No. 7 Arizona basketball to commanding victory against ASU
Wildcats defeat Sun Devils 71-54
TEMPE, Ariz. — Mark Lyons is new to Arizona but he’s no stranger to in-state rivalries.
Lyons, a Xavier transfer, wasn’t too concerned with this one, a 71-54 UA win against ASU at the Wells Fargo Center.
“It wasn’t as big to me as it was to everyone else,” said Lyons, a fifth-year senior. “I’m new to this, I don’t pay any attention with Arizona State, so I just came just to play the game.”
He opened the game with an air ball 3-point attempt, but bounced back from there and led all scorers with 24 points, tying a season-high.
Lyons stated his case as the best point guard in the Pac-12, too.
In the weeks leading up to the game, ASU freshman point man Jahii Carson made waves with his Twitter declaration that he was the best point guard in the Pac-12.
But, Lyons didn’t concern himself with the brewing positional battle with Arizona State’s best player, either.
“He’s a great player,” Lyons said. “He wants to be the best point guard in the Pac-12. Honestly, he might be.”
“I don’t want to be the best point guard in the Pac-12. I want to be the best point guard in the country.”
Carson led the Sun Devils (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12) with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but his foul trouble worked in the Wildcats (16-1, 4-1) favor.
At the end of the first half, Kevin Parrom took a charge on Carson to give him three fouls heading into the locker room.
Arizona held a three-point lead going into the second half, but the Wildcats took advantage of Carson’s foul problem.
“You don’t want to see him off the floor if you’re an ASU fan,” Solomon Hill said.
In the second half, with 10:26 remaining, the Wildcats led by two points after a Carson layup.
Then, 36 seconds later, Carson committed his fourth foul and was removed from the game, and Arizona capitalized.
The Wildcats went on a 11-0 run in the next 3:24 to take a 13-point lead, and controlled the rest of the way.
In the second half, Arizona outscored the Sun Devils 42-28 and made 14-of-25 field goal attempts (56 percent), compared to 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) for ASU.
It helped that Sun Devils backup point guard Chris Colvin missed the game due to a violation of team rules. Forward Carrick Felix, ASU’s second-leading scorer, was held to five points on 1-of-8 shooting and had seven turnovers.
“He’s [Carson] the heart of the team,” said Hill, who tallied 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. “It’s a big drop-off when Jahii’s out of the game.”
Added head coach Sean Miller: “We really tried to attack that fact that he had four fouls. It kind of put him in a bad position with our strong drivers and a lot of those strong drives happened because he was trying not to commit his fifth foul.”
The Lyons and Carson comparisons will likely follow them the rest of the season. But, at 16-1 and in pursuit of a Pac-12 title, Lyons and the Wildcats have bigger fish to fry.
“We’ve got the best point guard in the Pac-12, in the country,” said Nick Johnson, who scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. “Everybody was trying to hype it up really coming into this game; we really didn’t look at it like that though. We looked at it as a team thing. I mean we have two guards, but we have three other people on the court with us.”
And, between Arizona’s two starting guards, Lyons believes the Wildcats have the best of the bunch.
That confidence and the relative ease with with Lyons handles late-game situations, has rubbed off on Johnson and the rest of the team, said Miller.
“He has great belief in his own ability,” Miller said of Lyons. “But he also believes in our team. He’s used to playing in big games. He’s used to performing in big games. When one player feels that way, it can be contagious.”
Arizona is off until Thursday night, when they welcome No. 24 UCLA to McKale Center for this year’s “white-out”. The Bruins lost to No. 21 Oregon on Saturday 76-67.