Feb. 6, 2013
TUCSON, Ariz.--(AP) Arizona got off to an awful start, threatening to spoil its anniversary party at the McKale Center. Even when the Wildcats rallied to get within reach of Stanford, they couldn't seem to pull away.
The seniors, as usual, took over just in time.
Mark Lyons scored a season-high 25 points and led a key stretch in the second half, Solomon Hill scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half, and No. 7 Arizona held off Stanford 73-66 Wednesday night on the 40th anniversary of the first game at the McKale Center.
"At the end of the game, that's when great plays are made," said Lyons, who also dished out six assists. "Me and Solomon made great plays at the end game, a lot of us made great defensive plays to open the game up. You're really not a good player if you don't like it in crunch time."
Playing in front of color-coordinated home crowd, Arizona (20-2, 8-2 Pac-12) came out flat, spoiling the festive atmosphere inside their 40-year-old arena.
The Wildcats needed most of the first half to catch the Cardinal and traded a flurry of made baskets in a back-and-forth second half before their seniors took over.
Lyons has turned his lone season in the desert into a get-it-done showcase, making big plays down the stretch of close games all year. He did it again against the Cardinal, hitting jumpers, scoring on hard drives and setting up his teammates for easy baskets inside.
Hill has the same kind of mentality in close games in his final season in Tucson, becoming more aggressive when team needs it. He also ramped up with the game on the line, shaking off a 1-for-6 first half by hitting some big shots, including a thunderous dunk on a drive down the lane that brought the fans to their feet and put the Wildcats firmly in control.
Behind its two seniors and with a lift from Angelo Chol -- he had eight rebounds and six points with Grant Jerrett out -- Arizona made 15 of 25 shots in the second half.
"Their seniors really stepped up," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "Lyons and Hill made a big difference in the end there."
Stanford (14-9, 5-5) dominated Arizona early to put a damper on Arizona's celebration. Even as the Wildcats rallied and the McKale Center came to life, the Cardinal stayed close behind Dwight Powell, who scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half.
Stanford faded down the stretch, though, unable to stop Lyons and Hill or handle Arizona's defensive pressure in the game's final 3 minutes.
Powell grabbed 10 rebounds, but had five turnovers, and Aaron Bright added 16 points for the Cardinal, who finished 7 of 19 from 3-point range.
"Even though tonight was a loss, we came out and showed we can hang with anyone in the country," said Stanford's Josh Huestis, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. "We let things down in the last couple of minutes and that's where we lost it."
Bright gave the Cardinal a boost early, hitting a pair of 3s as the Cardinal scored the game's first 10 points, then hit another, giving him 11 points -- nearly three above his season average -- in the first 8 minutes.
The rest of the half turned defensive, with neither team able to hit much of anything as Arizona chipped the lead down to one. More shots feel in the second half, but the gap remained close.
Powell took over for Stanford, scoring on a variety of jump hooks and drives. He also set up Chasson Randle for a 3-pointer and hit a couple of free throws to keep the Cardinal ahead.
Lyons was the man for the Wildcats despite an elbow to the throat that had him coughing and in pain for at least a minute on the bench.
The graduate senior gave Arizona its first lead at 38-37 and later set up Brandon Ashley for a dunk with a bounce pass in traffic.
Lyons also scored on a breakaway off a steal and set up Chol for a layup with a tough pass through two defenders.
Lyons followed a missed jumper by Powell to set up Chol for a layup with another dish inside, then scored on backdoor cut to cap a 9-0 run that put the Wildcats up 58-54.
After Bright hit a 3-pointer, Lyons followed with one of his own and found Kevin Parrom in the corner for another that stretched the lead to 65-59 with 1:39 left.
"Mark not only scored tonight, he made his teammates better," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "His six assists were much closer to eight or nine. He ran the team and led the team, and really let the game come to him."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
NOTES: Stanford was attempting to knock off its second top-10 opponent in back-to-back weeks. The Cardinal routed No. 10/12 Oregon 76-52 last Wednesday ... Stanford raced out to a 10-0 lead and did not trail until Arizona took a 38-37 advantage with 14:33 remaining in the second half ... Dwight Powell notched his sixth double-double while reaching the 20-point plateau for the sixth time. Powell knocked down a career-best 10-11 from the foul line ... Dwight Powell accounted for Stanford's only steal. The Cardinal was last held without a steal on Feb. 20, 2010 at Oregon State.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins
"Their seniors really stepped up. Lyons and Hill made a big difference in the end there. They played how seniors should. They turned up the defense and were able to hold us off the three, that's something that we've been relying on a lot this year. But it's part of the game and you have to give them credit. It was a heck of an effort on our part, we just didn't have enough."
"The first 30 minutes show we can compete at this level. This is a tough environment. It was a great effort but it's not about the moral victories for us, it's about what we have to do to win. I thought we tapered off at the end and we needed to be better defensively at the end."
"Lyons is a terrific player. He has the uncanny ability to make plays. I was watching his film and watching him tonight was just like that. He's able to make plays when the team needs them. He comes out with a confidence and poise and is great college basketball player."
Junior forward Dwight Powell
"We weren't as focused on defense in the last portion of the game. We had some defensive lapses that gave Arizona easy looks at the baskets. They saw the ball, and picked it up offensively to take control. We let a bunch of easy baskets go, and you can't let that happen if you want to win a game."
"I think we played well offensively tonight, but the lack of defense was what killed us. It doesn't matter how well you play on offense if you have defensive lapses against a high-scoring team. In the beginning of the game, we were getting stops. We were executing on offense and we were on point on defense. In the second half, we didn't make out as well, and whenever you have defensive lapses like that things go south."
Junior forward Josh Huestis
"We let our defense go and Arizona was able to make plays. I felt like we had the game on lock almost the whole time and we played really well, we just had lapses when it counted, which was how we lost it."
"Even though tonight was a loss we came out and showed we can hang with anyone in the country. We let things down in the last couple minutes and that's where we lost it. Overall, tonight proved that we are a good team and we can go back and study tapes and keep getting better every game."
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller
"Our defense was consistent throughout the game. They shot 38 percent from the field. They shot 18 free throws, and a couple of them at the end were gifts. I don't know how they ended up at the line. They would have a lot of fire if our defense wasn't consistent tonight. Stanford has a number of great shooters that put a lot of pressure on defense. Our defense was good enough to win. It was just our offense having to catch up. If you look at our offense in the second half, we were 15-25 from the field, 60 percent. We finished the game with 11 turnovers. If we play with 12 or fewer turnovers, that is when we are at our best."
"We now have an opportunity to take tomorrow off and rest if that's what we so choose. I think that is what we will do. In February, less is more. It's so important that your players have energy and that the bumps and bruises can be addressed on a day that they don't have to run and do all the things you normally do. From that perspective, that's one thing. As well, our two days in between are here in Tucson. We don't have to travel, and we can have two great days of practice."
Arizona Senior Mark Lyons
"Solomon (Hill) took over the game in the last stretch like seniors do. He made big-time plays and our defense was really clicking. Angelo (Chol) came in and made great plays by scoring and rebounding the ball. Everybody was in a groove tonight, but our defense really won us the game tonight."
"I'm really one of the guys who cheers Angelo (Chol) on. We all do, but I have a lot of faith in him. I know that when he gets in the game he's going to produce, and tonight he was clicking also."
Arizona Senior Solomon Hill
"I had to pick it up in the second half. I started off pretty terrible, but you have to put that behind you and keep pressing. They left me open for a couple shots and Kevin (Parrom) and Nick (Johnson) found me in a couple different spots. Your shot isn't always going to fall, but you have to stay with it and take open shots. At halftime, Coach told me to keep shooting. It was nothing to worry about, I just stuck with it."
"A couple of our guys got in foul trouble, so they had to watch a little bit. Some of the guys didn't play the same defense they did in the first half, and we executed by switching screens. We made them pay for it in certain situations. We stayed with it and executed and found open guys. Both teams played awful in the first half, but we stayed right there with them and kept turning the ball from them. We pushed the ball more in the second half."