UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Lyons turning into point guard

Making bounce passes for assists, he is getting into rhythm of position
2013-02-08T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:25:02Z Arizona basketball: Lyons turning into point guardBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The pass bounced between Stanford defenders before Angelo Chol nabbed it along the baseline for a layup.

Simple, yes. But, for Mark Lyons, that assist in Wednesday's UA-Stanford game may have been just as important as any number of clutch layups or free throws he has made for the Arizona Wildcats already this season.

It was another piece of evidence that Lyons is continuing to transition from a combo guard into a point guard, a big reason he transferred to Arizona from Xavier last summer.

"He really was a point guard tonight," UA coach Sean Miller said after the Wildcats' 73-66 win over the Cardinal on Wednesday. He had "six assists, and was really closer to 10 because some of his best plays led to foul shots and a few of his passes led to missed point-blank shots. He was running his team and he implemented a lot of things we've been talking about because of his scoring."

Lyons is averaging a team-high 17.7 points against conference teams after scoring 25 on Wednesday against Stanford but he's still running dead even in assists to turnovers, 29 to 29 in Pac-12 games.

So after he had six assists to two turnovers Wednesday, playing a key role in engineering UA's late offensive push, Lyons spoke first about playmaking when asked if it was one of his best overall games.

"Definitely," he said. "I was just facilitating. Coach brought me in the office and said I need to make more bounce passes under the free throw line. I really took pride in that, making more bounce passes."

The way Miller described it, that was only a small fraction of what they've talked about over the past eight months, since Lyons arrived from Xavier.

"I've talked to him 107 times; I wrote (that number) on a piece of paper," Miller said, generating laughter as he smiled. "And in the 107th meeting, it clicked. I don't know what I was wearing or how it looked but, man we had it going together."

Seriously though, Miller said, Lyons deserves credit for striving to improve as a point guard, while he's also been winning games with his scoring. Lyons hit a game-winning layup against Florida and game-winning free throws against San Diego State, among other heroics.

"It's not easy to become a point guard and it's unfair to say Mark isn't one," Miller said. "He's a combo guard. He can really score. Without his scoring punch we'd be nowhere near where we are.

"But it makes the game hard sometimes if he turns it over the way he does so we try really to map out a plan: Bounce passes below the foul line (and during the) first four minutes staying away from any contested threes, really looking at taking better higher quality threes."

Miller noted that Lyons' three-point shooting has slumped recently - he is making 30.5 percent from beyond the arc in Pac-12 games after making 37.7 percent in nonconference games - and that he wanted Lyons to take more pride in things that don't show up on the stat sheet.

"He did that (against Stanford) and that is a great sign if he is to stay in that mode," Miller said. "Six assists to two turnovers? He was a great player out there tonight."

Lyons has only nine regular-season games left plus the postseason to keep growing at the point, but Miller isn't about to let up on that process now.

"I'm gonna keep meeting with him," Miller said. "That's the deal him and I have - that we're going to work together to both help our own team and help him."

Rim shots

• Already having used Kevin Parrom often in a smaller lineup featuring Solomon Hill at power forward, Miller says Parrom might join the starting lineup in an effort to better kick-start the Wildcats early in games. "To me, (Parrom) doesn't care whether it's 0-0 or 10-10 or 50-50," Miller said. "He's going to be the same, and as a senior maybe that's something that we can use at the beginning of the game right now."

• Testing revealed that Grant Jerrett had a much lower-grade stress reaction than Jordin Mayes did when he was sidelined for five games with his foot pain last season, Miller said. "It's of the lowest grade, so we caught it at the very beginning," Miller said, adding that Jerrett will only play Sunday against Cal if he can practice this weekend.

On StarNet: See more photos from the game at azstarnet.com/gallery

Up next

• What: California at No. 7 Arizona

• When: 5 p.m. Sunday

• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

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