Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Lyons had one of his most complete games as a point guard and Arizona beat the Stanford Cardinal at home.
The story is rewritten over and over. It's usually pretty similar.
The Arizona Wildcats often get off to slow starts.
They struggle on offense without a pure point guard running the show.
They trail for a lot of the game, fight back and never can push it over the top until late. They generally have done that in 20 of 22 games this year.
Sean Miller's team stood strong behind a strong defensive effort on Wednesday, winning 73-66 on McKale Center's 40th birthday against the Stanford Cardinal, which shot just 38 percent from the floor. Though Stanford hit 7-of-19 three-pointers and were a threat to win because of their skill from beyond the arc, Arizona's defense was superb in the paint. It held Stanford to 18 paint points and scored 32 inside itself.
Mark Lyons scored 25 and added six assists in one of his most complete games yet. Solomon Hill added 23, most of which were scored after a quiet first half. As a duo, Arizona's two seniors went 16-of-26 from the floor.
The Wildcats trailed 27-26 at halftime despite holding the Cardinal to 29.6 percent shooting. Another slow start saw them fall behind 10-0 from the jump. Outside of Lyons' 10 points and opposing point guard Aaron Bright's 11, neither team had much semblance of an offense.
Arizona's first lead came on a Lyons layup to put UA ahead 38-37 with 14:35 to play in the game, and from then forth it was a battle. Then, Arizona's predictable late-game run came.
Tied at 54 with less than five minutes to play, the Wildcats put the clamps down. On consecutive plays, Lyons found Angelo Chol rolling to the bucket unimpeded and the Wildcats ran their obligatory point guard backcut for a wide open layup by Lyons, giving UA a four-point lead.
A monster dunk by Hill gave UA a 67-61 lead with just a minute to play as the Wildcats held off the Cardinal to hit the 20-win mark on the year.
A foot injury to Grant Jerrett labeled a "sore foot" and Brandon Ashley's foul trouble gave way to Chol's best, most-assertive game of the season. It was much needed as Kaleb Tarczewski played 13 minutes and had three turnovers.
Chol finished with six points and eight rebounds, and along with Kevin Parrom (eight points, nine rebounds and three assists) gave Miller enough off the bench in a game where not many players aside from Hill and Lyons found an offensive rhythm.
Arizona shot 46 percent from the floor and had only 11 turnovers -- it was good news against Stanford, which turned the ball over 10 times themselves.
While the story was rewritten for the Wildcats on Wednesday, it was done so with a different ending. Lyons solved his chucking problems for a game, and a shorthanded UA squad -- the Wildcats didn't play freshman Gabe York and went only eight deep -- held strong behind what will make them capable of beating anyone in the nation. The defense is the identity of this Arizona team.
The sooner the Wildcats themselves realize that, they'll be even more dangerous.
Grant Jerrett injury
Freshman big man and Arizona's seventh man, Grant Jerrett, was held out of Wednesday's game with what Bruce Pascoe reported on Tuesday as a "stress reaction." Miller said the injury was caught early, and that's good news. Jerrett was kept out of the game for precautionary reasons.
What's not good is how often the Wildcats have dealt with foot injuries since Miller's arrival. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but after Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes have both missed time because of foot injuries multiple times, this third case begins to make it more of a trend than bad luck.
That said, it's a good sign Arizona will hold Jerrett out now rather than risk further injury.