Casey Sapio-US PRESSWIRE
Mark Lyons is still learning the point guard position, but it was him being the scoring threat that led the Arizona Wildcats to a win against the Clemson Tigers.
Solomon Hill went 2-for-16 and missed his layups, Devin Booker was too physical a force inside for UA to feed Kaleb Tarczewski, and Mark Lyons' point guard play left something to be desired. Arizona's bench scored 11 points all night and the perimeter defense struggled to contain backup guard Adonis Filer, who scored 10.
But those woes, 35.5 percent shooting -- Clemson held UA to 31.3 percent from three-point range -- and a confident Clemson team weren't enough to lose in a 66-54 road win for the Wildcats (7-0) on Saturday.
Arizona's struggles were sandwiched in between two streaks where its potential showed. And even through their individual struggles, Hill and Lyons were main reasons the Wildcats never looked down and out against the Tigers. Lyons looked like he'd rather pound the rock and push the pace when his team needed to slow it down and gather themselves, but in a sound example of "he it what he is" basketball, made tough plays down the stretch to help Arizona separate itself from Clemson.
Lyons finished with 20 points, four assists and a turnover.
The Wildcats got out to a 22-8 lead 11 minutes into the game as Clemson's offense appeared inept, but Arizona would only score six more points in the final nine minutes of play. Lyons had 10 points by that point, and chipping away at their deficit, the Tigers climbed to within four as they quieted the UA point guard from then until the halftime break.
Though Arizona would like to play inside-out and did early on with great success, Clemson's size with big Devin Booker along with athletic Milton Jennings and K.J. McDaniels made the Wildcats one-dimensional. Those three starting frontcourt Clemson players had a combined 34 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks.
Arizona led 28-24 at the half, and the offense at times struggled by taking quick threes. Overdribbling by the likes of Lyons didn't help the ball movement, and the quick shots led to run-outs by Clemson, who could only keep Arizona within reach with fastbreak opportunities.
Clemson took a 42-36 lead off a three-pointer following free throws that stemmed from a flagrant foul on Kevin Parrom with 12:45 left in the game.
That's when Hill's will turned the tide. He cleaned up the offensive boards, leading the team with 11 total rebounds. He had only seven points, but added three assists, two steals and two blocks. The senior forward had five turnovers, but his energy helped Arizona come from six points down.
As a team, Arizona scored 23 second-chance points as it outrebounded the Tigers 40-26, and at 38.5 percent shooting, Clemson shot nearly as badly as Arizona.
Fighting back to tie it at 47 with seven minutes left, Arizona then went on a 17-2 run once the Wildcats took a punch to the face. Lyons and backcourt mate Nick Johnson led the way, forcing turnovers -- Johnson had five steals and 13 points -- and pressuring the Clemson ball handlers, who at times earlier in the game were getting to the rack with ease.
So we learned that Arizona might want to work on focus issues. Playing a consistent 40 minutes come later in the year and soon against Florida will be the only way the Wildcats will have a shot at winning against more talented teams. That said, the Wildcats looked mighty good when they flipped the switch.
Lyons, Hill and Johnson, while all with their deficiencies, made plays late in the game for Arizona. That's not all that surprising, but Sean Miller will likely take their efforts and the win rather than fret over the holes that put Arizona in a bind.
And like the Southern Miss outing, the Wildcats showed that when everything goes against them -- this time it was on the road -- there's still a lot to keep them in games.