Arizona's Lyons hopes to be on mark vs. UF

Arizona senior guard Mark Lyons, right, transferred from Xavier. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 9:52 p.m.

It would have been an easier choice.

After three strong seasons at Xavier, senior guard Mark Lyons could have taken the 80-minute drive south down I-75 to join defending national champion Kentucky.

Instead, Lyons headed west to Arizona for the chance to play point guard and be reunited with his former coach, Sean Miller. So far, it's worked out. Lyons will start at the point Saturday night when No. 8 Arizona (7-0) hosts No. 5 Florida (7-0) in a showdown of top-10 teams.

Lyons redshirted his first season at Xavier due to academic qualifying issues. But he graduated in four years and transferred to Arizona for his final year of eligibility on a postgraduate scholarship.

It was Miller who recruited Lyons out of Schenectady, N.Y., before leaving Xavier to Arizona following the 2008-09 season.

“That was really a key factor,” said Lyons, who chose to transfer to Arizona over Kansas and Kentucky. “Coach Miller, he just cares about his players. He's an honest guy.”

It's been an up-and-down season for Lyons at the point. He played mostly shooting guard at Xavier and has struggled at times with turnovers. Through seven games this season, Lyons has more turnovers (19) than assists (18).

“I've just tried to go out there and do what coach has asked of me,” Lyons said. “I'm trying to be a vocal leader, trying to create for my teammates.”

In Arizona's last home game against Southern Mississippi, the Wildcats turned the ball over 27 times in a 63-55 win. Lyons had three of those turnovers, and knows that Florida is capable of being disruptive on the press.

“Hopefully, we aren't that sloppy again,” Lyons said. “We've got to make sure that we are more careful with the basketball. A lot of the turnovers, it was just miscommunications, guys not being in the right place at the right time. It's something we've been working on in practice.”

Lyons has some familiarity with the Gators. At Xavier, he played twice against Florida, averaging just 2.0 points and 2.5 assists. In his one game starting against Florida, Lyons had an off night shooting the ball, going 1-of-11 from the floor.

But Lyons is a capable scorer. He's averaging 13.4 points per game and is coming off a season-high 20-point performance in Arizona's 66-54 win last Saturday at Clemson.

Lyons said he's friends with former Gator basketball players Chandler Parsons and Erving Walker. Lyons also has high respect for UF senior guard Kenny Boynton, whom he will guard on Saturday night.

“He's always in attack mode,” Lyons said of Boynton. “He's very aggressive.”

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