UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Clutch Lyons holds his own

Combo guard has filled void at point; UA has benefited
2013-03-06T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:27:39Z Arizona basketball: Clutch Lyons holds his ownBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Mark Lyons will play his final home game for Arizona on Saturday and, judging by some of the feedback he's generated in his lone season with the Wildcats, that's a good thing to some folks.

Because not only did Lyons jump into the most-often scrutinized position at Arizona, point guard, but he also did so while possessing a scorer's DNA. He is a combo guard from Xavier who came to Arizona last summer under the NCAA's rent-a-grad program, in part so he could play point guard while the Wildcats waited out T.J. McConnell's required redshirt year.

Lyons is taking graduate-level classes as a fifth-year senior transfer, having graduated from Xavier so he could take advantage of the rule allowing him to play his final season elsewhere. But his professional education is on the floor, where he has been aiming to impress scouts by showing more versatility in the backcourt.

The adjustment is in "just learning how to control the game," Lyons said. "I didn't realize when to do things and not do things instead of just playing. I'm more out there with a purpose now."

So he learns. And, the way UA coach Sean Miller sees it, he's winning games along the way.

"Mark is not your prototypical point guard, and we knew that when he came here," Miller said. "But I believe he's given our team a confidence level, extra firepower and an added quality, and I think he's done a really good job for our team."

Lyons has started all 29 of the Wildcats' games, has averaged 29.7 minutes and leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game.

He has scattered highlights throughout the season: He played well in UA's opener against Charleston Southern, made a game-winning layup against Florida, hit two game-winning free throws against San Diego State and prevented near-losses to Colorado at home and at Utah with strong second-half performances.

"I don't know if we'd have 23 wins without Mark," Miller said. "As a matter of fact, I do know.

"We wouldn't.

"He's given us a clutch performer. He's terrific at the end of games. … (there's) the number of times he's gone to the foul line and won maybe between five and eight games."

But there is also the other side.

Lyons takes 26.7 percent of UA's shots when he's on the floor, according to Kenpom.com, despite having the lowest field goal percentage of any UA starter. He's also the team's fifth-best shooter in three-point percentage (33.1) despite taking the most three-pointers (163).

Moreover, Lyons' assist-to-turnover ratio was negative early in the season and is now barely over 1-to-1, well below the 2-to-1 standard many coaches aim for.

The scrutiny may be no more intense than it is now, with the Wildcats having been swept in Los Angeles last weekend, losing four of their past seven games and putting a preferential NCAA tournament seed in danger.

Last week, Lyons had a poor shooting night (1 for 9) at USC and missed a key late shot at UCLA.

"When you lose a couple, the spotlight always goes on the team, the coach, certain players," Miller said. "We just came off back-to-back losses. I understand that. But if we (did) win the Pac-12 or we win one of those two games in L.A., you don't put the spotlight on that as much as you do the positives. Mark's been a real positive for our season."

Of course, there are some who may not see it that way.

"Yeah," Miller said. "I mean, I don't give a (expletive) what other people think about him."

Lyons hears all that, too. He said UA has been much different than Xavier in that the Wildcats are more of the focus in town, without any pro teams or other colleges around, as in Cincinnati.

That means more passion - and more heat.

Perspective helps mitigate it.

"I just play basketball the same regardless," Lyons said. "No game is ever too high, no game is ever too low. I just go out and play."

Despite a new team, new opponents, new fans and, mostly, that new position.

"I knew it was going to be tough," Lyons said. "But there's no such thing as being successful with an easy route."

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe

Pluses and minuses

A look at some of Mark Lyons' moments this season:

Nov. 11: Had 17 points, six assists and no turnovers while UA beat Charleston Southern 82-73 in its regular-season opener at McKale Center

Dec. 1: Had no assists and four turnovers in 23 minutes at UA's 85-57 win at Texas Tech, the fourth of five straight games when he had more turnovers than assists

Dec. 8: Scored 20 points on 7-for-13 field goal shooting and 5-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line in UA's 66-54 win at Clemson

Dec. 15: Drove in for a game-winning layup with seven seconds left to give UA a 65-64 win over Florida at McKale Center

Dec. 25: Had just nine points on 2-for-9 shooting in the Diamond Head Classic championship game but drew a late foul while driving inside and hit both free throws for the difference in UA's 68-67 win over San Diego State

Jan. 3: Went to the line 10 times and made every free throw while totaling 24 points in UA's overtime win over Colorado

Jan. 5: Shot 3 for 14 from the field but made 5 of 6 free throws in UA's 60-57 win over Utah

Jan. 10: Had 21 points, including two three-pointers that cut Oregon's lead under double digits in UA's 70-66 loss in Eugene

Jan. 19: Dropped 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as UA pulled away in a 71-54 win at ASU

Jan. 24: Had no assists and five turnovers while scoring 16 points in 84-73 home loss to UCLA

Jan. 31: Missed all four three-point shots he took and had one assist to three turnovers in UA's 57-53 win at Washington

Feb. 6: Shot 9 for 13 from the field for 25 points in 73-66 win over Stanford

Feb. 10: Was part of a perimeter defense that allowed Cal's Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe to combine for 20 of 29 shooting in UA's 77-69 loss to the Bears

Feb. 17: Scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to hold off a Utah comeback in which the Utes erased UA's 13-point second-half lead

Feb. 27: Went 1 for 9 from the field but earned 16 trips to the foul line, making 12 of 16 free throws for 14 points in 89-78 loss at USC.

March 2: Had one assist and five turnovers, while missing a jumper in the lane with 10 seconds left that would have pulled UA within a point, in 74-69 loss at UCLA

Mark Lyons' statistics at Arizona

15.1

Points per game

42.4

Field goal percentage

33.1

Three-point percentage

84.8

Free-throw percentage

2.0

Rebounds per game

1.1-to-1

Assist-to-turnover ratio

Up next

• Who: ASU at No. 18 Arizona

• When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: FSAZ

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
USC 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Azusa Pacific at
Washington State
11/7 12:00 am
Cal Poly Pomona at
Arizona
11/9 4:00 pm
Mount St. Mary's at
Arizona
11/14 6:00 pm
Coppin State at
Oregon
11/14 10:00 pm
Detroit at
Oregon
11/17 9:00 pm
Cal-Irvine at
Arizona
11/19 7:00 pm
Oral Roberts at
Oregon State
11/21 7:00 pm
Texas-Pan American at
Utah
11/26 6:00 pm
Northern Colorado at
Colorado
12/13 4:00 pm
Washington State at
Santa Clara
12/13 8:00 pm
Grambling at
Oregon State
12/15 8:00 pm
Grambling at
Washington
12/17 9:00 pm
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