2014-15 Countdown

Arizona Wildcats best-play countdown: Lyons’ game-winner against Florida earns Miller signature win

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This year’s countdown to tipoff includes an overall look at the best play in Arizona Wildcats history, which will be determined as the days leading up to tipoff. Today marks 32 days until Arizona starts its 2014-15 season against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 14 at McKale Center. Along with the mentioning of the top plays, the countdown will once again display the top players who wore the number that corresponds with the day. The following is the next top play (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket):

Mark Lyons celebrates with Arizona fans after making the game-winning shot against Florida in 2012 (YouTube video capture)

Mark Lyons celebrates with Arizona fans after making the game-winning shot against Florida in 2012 (YouTube video capture)

Arizona trailed virtually the entire game, until the waning seconds, of its marquee game against No. 5 Florida in 2012.

The Wildcats were in need of a point guard like Steve Kerr or Damon Stoudamire to take over. Nick Johnson, a sophomore, gave the ball to Lyons, a senior shooting guard-turned point guard after transferring from Xavier, with Arizona down 64-63.

Lyons drove down the right side and made a running layup off the glass over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-9 Patric Young with 7.1 seconds remaining.

Florida could not get a clean shot off and Arizona emerged victorious.

“It helps our confidence.A lot of people doubted us, but we got the job done and proved people wrong. People questioned our schedule, our youth and whether I’m a point guard.”
Mark Lyons, Arizona point guard in 2012-13

In the second half, Florida had nine turnovers, including three in the last pivotal 2:35 when the UA erased six-point. The Wildcats had only two turnovers in the second half. Lyons did not commit a turnover in the last 25:51 of the game after committing three in the first 14:09.

It was Arizona’s first victory over a top five team during the regular season since Dec. 14, 2008, when it beat No. 4 Gonzaga in Phoenix. The win over Billy Donovan’s program was a signature achievement for Sean Miller’s task of rebuilding the once-dominant program.

Lyons wassn’t a natural point guard — he is not shy about shooting — but he was the primary ballhandler for a team that improved to 8-0 with a No. 8 ranking.

“It helps our confidence,” Lyons told CBS Sports. “A lot of people doubted us, but we got the job done and proved people wrong. People questioned our schedule, our youth and whether I’m a point guard.”

Lyons finished with 14 points, three rebounds and more turnovers (three) than assists (two), but he took charge when Arizona needed a leader.

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ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR (Click on link to access blogs that pertain to the following)

Nic Wise’s game-winning last-second shot in double-overtime against USC in 2010 puts satisfying cap to tumultuous career
Richard Jefferson’s tap-in at the buzzer off Jason Terry’s missed three-pointer beats Washington in 1999.
Loren Woods’ three blocked shots in succession — like rapid fire, one after the other within a five-second span — against Oregon in 2000.
Michael Wright’s shot in the lane with three seconds left topples No. 1 Stanford at Maples Pavilion in 2001.
Eddie Smith’s game-winning three-point play with two seconds left caps a furious last-minute rally at ASU in 1985.
Eddie Smith’s bank shot at the buzzer beats ASU 65-64 in Tempe in 1984 and sets Lute Olson’s dominant program in motion.
Salim Stoudamire’s jumper with six-tenths of a second left beats ASU in Tempe in 2005.
Nick Johnson gives Arizona fans Christmas Day gift with game-saving blocked shot against San Diego State in 2012.
MoMo Jones’ 16-foot bank shot at the buzzer in 2010 adds to New York flavor of Arizona winning shots at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
Chris Mills’ buzzer-beating jumper in regulation gives Arizona life in its 105-94 overtime victory over UCLA in 1991.
Kenny Lofton’s behind-the-back, double-pump dunk caps rout of Oregon in 1988, ranks as one of college hoops’ best dunks of that season.
Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning long-distance three-pointer downs UCLA in 2005.
Derrick Williams’ emphatic blocked shot against Washington in 2011 saves game for Arizona.
Khalid Reeves’ coast-to-coast game-winner with less the five seconds left beats Stanford at Maples Pavilion in 1992.
Steve Kerr’s first shot after father’s assassination in 1984, a 25-foot jumper against ASU, gives him hero status in Tucson and contributes to Arizona’s emergence in the Pac-10.
Sean Rook’s last-second bank shot at Stanford in 1991 gives the Wildcats a 78-76 victory.
Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning jumper against Oklahoma State in the 2005 Sweet 16.
Sean Elliott’s free throw breaks Lew Alcindor’s conference scoring record in 1989.
Craig McMillan’s McClutch shot at the buzzer from full-court pass from Steve Kerr against Oregon State in 1986.
— Arizona 6-10 center Bob Elliott’s 35-foot jumper at the buzzer beats Kansas State in 1973.
Sean Elliott downs Duke with three-pointer over Danny Ferry in last minute in 1989.
Miles Simon’s 65-foot bank shot as time expired to beat Cincinnati in Phoenix in 1996.
Tom Tolbert’s no-look, twisting shot against North Carolina in the 1988 Elite Eight.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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