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March 23, 2013

Lyons, Wildcats advance to Sweet 16

Arizona did not need much time Saturday afternoon to squash Harvard's feel-good NCAA tournament story.

The 14th-seeded Crimson did not make a field goal for the first 7 1/2 minutes, and Mark Lyons tied his career high with 27 points to lead the No. 6 Wildcats to a 74-51 third-round victory at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

"My teammates got me the ball in the right position, and I was able to make shots today," said Lyons, who made 12 of 17 shots including 3 of 6 from the 3-point line.

Lyons, who led the 'Cats in scoring for a second consecutive game, became the first player in NCAA tournament history to make it to the Sweet 16 with two different teams in back-to-back seasons. The 6-1 guard was a member of three Xavier teams that advanced to the second weekend of the Big Dance.

"When you think about this: It's four times [Lyons has] been in the next round. I think it's remarkable, really. It shows you how talented he is and it also shows you the bigger the game, to me, can really bring out the best in him," said UA head coach Sean Miller, the head coach on Lyons' first trip as a redshirt freshman before taking the job in Tucson.

The Wildcats (27-7) will face the winner of Sunday's game between No. 10 Iowa State and No. 2 Ohio State next Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be Arizona's second regional semifinal appearance in three seasons, and the 15th in program history.

Arizona shot 55.1 percent from the floor and 9 of 15 from beyond the arc. Senior forward Solomon Hill added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Crimson (20-10), who shot 27.6 percent, received just six points on 2-of-8 shooting from leading scorer Wesley Saunders. Sophomore Kenyatta Smith paced the team with 10 points.

"I think in order for us to make this a magical moment for our team and program, which we have been able to do at other points in this season, you've probably got to get off to a good start against a team like that and we had our chances. We had some open opportunities early, and once we missed some we kinda got our heads down and they took advantage of it," Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said.

UA jumped on Harvard, which missed its first 13 shot attempts fresh off the first tournament win in the program's 102-year history.

A deep 3-pointer and another jump shot from Lyons put the Wildcats in front 10-2 early. By the time Siyani Chambers converted the Crimson's first field goal - a 3-pointer - the Wildcats were ahead 17-5 with 12:16 remaining in the half.

The Wildcats' defense did not let up, suffocating the Ivy League champions into a 25 percent shooting performance in the half.

"They were tremendous on defense, their rotations, their size," Chambers said. "Their length was a problem tonight, but give all the credit to them. They played a great game and they played great defense."

The offense kept the onslaught coming, too, as Hill's dunk in transition extended the lead to 30-9 with 8:06 left.

Starting at the 5:41 mark, the Crimson connected on five consecutive shot attempts before missing on its final attempt in the half. But the 'Cats took a 40-22 lead into the locker room.

After a pair of Kaleb Tarczewski free throws at the start of the half, Harvard went on an 8-2 run capped by a corner 3-pointer from Chambers - who was playing through a chipped front tooth.

Lyons, who took a hard tumble of his own during the spurt, responded with seven points of his own to take a 14-point lead back up to 19. The Crimson then went seven minutes without a basket as Lyons continued to torch the defense for a second consecutive game, and Harvard never threatened again.

UA did lose freshman forward Grant Jerrett, who fell on his right elbow and did not return to the game for precautionary reasons.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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