CLEMSON, S.C. – Mark Lyons said earlier this week that he actually prefers road games to home games.
Apparently, he wasn’t kidding.
The Arizona Wildcats’ senior guard scored 20 points to lead the Wildcats to a 66-54 win over Clemson to silence a rowdy crowd of about 9,000 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Wildcats did have a major scare early in the second half, when they fell behind 42-36, struggling to hit shots in the first 25 minutes of the game, but came back with an 11-0 run that made the difference.
Arizona wound up shooting just 35.5 percent but kept Clemson to 39.2 percent and had a 41-26 rebounding edge over the Tigers. While Lyons had his season-high of 20 points, Nick Johnson added 13 for the Wildcats.
After making just 29.4 percent of their shots in the first half, the Wildcats struggled early in the second half. Arizona led 28-24 at halftime but Clemson had a 37-36 lead by the time Tiger guard Rod Hall made a layup with 12:57 left.
At that point, Solomon Hill had shot 2 of 12 from the field, and Grant Jerrett had just airballed a 12-footer. And, afterward, UA dared Hall to shoot a three-pointer (he had not taken one all season) and Hall hit it to give Clemson a 42-36 lead.
But UA tied it at 44 with 8:53 left after Brandon Ashley scored twice inside and later went on the 11-0 run to take a 55-47 lead that Clemson never recovered from.
During the run, Jordin Mayes hit a three-pointer, Tarczewski rolled off a screen to score inside and Jerrett hit his first field goal since UA beat Texas Tech a week earlier.
In the first half, Arizona nearly lost an early 12-point lead but hung on to stay ahead of Clemson 28-24.
UA shot just 29.4 percent from the field and was plagued particularly by missed field goals from Hill (1 for 8), Kaleb Tarczewski (1 for 5) and Johnson (2for 5, with two missed layups).
The Wildcats were led in the first half Lyons, who had 12 points along with two assists and a turnover.
The Tigers, who had seven points from wing K.J. McDaniels, went on a 16-4 run late in the second half to make close what looked early to be a potential blowout.
Arizona limited Clemson to just five points over the first 10 minutes. The Wildcats went ahead 17-5 when Johnson drove inside for a layup, after banking in a three-pointer on a previous possession when the Wildcats’ offense had broken down and the shot clock was running out.
The Wildcats also showed early resiliency when Hill rebounded and dunked after he was blocked.
At point guard, Lyons appeared to have his confidence back early after shooting 0 for 7 against Southern Miss. He made his first two shots, one a three-pointer and had one assist to one turnover as UA charged out to a 12-4 lead.
The Tigers finally started putiing together their threat midway through the first half., with a pair of three pointers and inside scores that cut UA’s lead to 24-17. The Wildcats took a 26-17 lead when Lyons swooped up to dunk a missed layup by Johnson but the Tigers cut the lead to just 28-26 by the time McDaniels dunked in a missed shot late in the half.
Eighth-ranked Arizona is now 7-0 entering a showdown with Florida on Saturday at McKale Center.