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January 19, 2013
Lyons, No. 7 Arizona pull away from ASU in 2nd half
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The Wildcats put Sun Devils star Jahii Carson in foul trouble midway through the second half and immediately went on a key 11-0 run to provide the difference in a 71-54 victory in front of a boisterous 10,900 fans at Wells Fargo Arena.
Arizona (16-1, 4-1 Pac-12 Conference) avenged last year's 65-63 road loss to its rivals and also moved ahead of the Sun Devils (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12) in the league standings.
UA senior guard Mark Lyons poured in 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, and Arizona shot 56 percent after the break to run away with the win.
"I just came to play. It was another game to me," said Lyons, a Xavier transfer, who made 8 of 15 shots. "I haven't been here long enough to understand the rivalry and things like that. I just wanted to come out here and play the game.
"But you could see that in some of my guys, they had that in their heart that they just wanted to beat Arizona State."
Carson produced 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go with four assists and four rebounds, but the redshirt freshman picked up his fourth foul a little more than halfway through the second half and sat during the deciding stretch.
The Wildcats were able to make Carson a virtual one-man show. Although Evan Gordon chipped in 14 points, no other Sun Devil scored in double figures. The most glaring no-show was from Carrick Felix, who UA head coach Sean Miller said Thursday was part of ASU's "big three."
Felix made just 1 of 8 shots, finished with five points and accounted for seven of ASU's 17 turnovers. The other member of the trio, Jordan Bachynski, was limited to three points and six rebounds but added three blocks.
Miller credited UA freshman Brandon Ashley for Felix's struggles.
"Today he guarded on the perimeter excellent," Miller said of Ashley.
ASU was held to 39.1 percent shooting, including 5 of 20 from beyond the arc.
Leading by three at the half, the Wildcats were able to extend their advantage and Lyons' 3-pointer before the first media timeout made the score 40-33. A Hill jump shot with 14:26 to play after the break in action gave UA its largest lead to that point.
But ASU answered back, as a previously scoreless Jonathan Gilling drained a corner 3-pointer as part of a rally that cut the deficit to two on a pair of occasions including Carson's layup approaching the halfway mark.
But Carson picked up his fourth foul on the next possession with 9:50 remaining, and Arizona immediately capitalized. The Wildcats reeled off nine consecutive points to build its lead to double digits, 55-44, and force an ASU timeout. Lyons tacked on a layup to push the run to 11-0.
"Jahii was in foul trouble so we tried to go at him, see if I could get his fifth or fourth," said Johnson, who grew up with Carson during their junior high and high school years.
ASU would later pull to within nine points but would get no closer. Lyons' layup with 2:08 to play provided the dagger, pushing the UA lead to 13 and sending ASU fans to the exits.
Even with the shot-blocking presence of Bachynski emphasized in the days leading up to the game, Arizona attacked the basket to open the contest.
Hill flew by the 7-2 center for an emphatic dunk to open the scoring, and both Hill and Lyons added layups as the Wildcats made five of their first seven shot attempts.
"It was good, it was good," Lyons said of the fast start. "It was letting us know we had a little offense going.
"It's great when we make shots early, but it also hurts you because sometimes people get comfortable."
But ASU was right there and made sure its crowd stayed involved in a frenzied, back-and-forth start to the contest.
The 'Cats would convert just 6 of 22 attempts the rest of the half against the Pac-12's second-best field goal percentage defense. Opponents came into the contest shooting just 38.4 percent against ASU.
"Today we didn't let that affect us," Lyons said. "We just kept on attacking, attacking."
Tempers briefly flared under the Arizona basket with 11:49 left in the half. Order was restored quickly, but not before Felix was issued a technical foul for the altercation.
Arizona then reverted back to some old, bad habits, settling for jump shots and showing little ball movement on offense. The Sun Devils took advantage, and Gordon's tough shot over Kevin Parrom's outstretched arm with 9:13 left in the half pushed ASU's lead to 20-17.
The 'Cats quickly knotted the score at 20, and Johnson's 3-pointer from straightaway at the 7:01 mark put UA back on top to jumpstart a 12-2 run.
Inside the last 10 seconds of the half, Parrom stepped in for a charge to draw a costly third foul on Carson. But ASU quickly stole the momentum back, as Gordon's layup before time expired to cut the UA lead to 29-26 at the break.