Arizona Affirms Place Among Nation's Elite Teams

By Evan Barnes
Casey Sapio – USA TODAY Sports Images

All the questions about Arizona‘s toughness. The questions over their favorable schedule, struggling to beat Southern Mississippi and Clemson as well as proving it could hang as a Top-10 team? All answered in the final minute of their thrilling 65-64 win over No. 5 Florida at the McKale Center.

It wasn’t just that they overcame a six-point deficit to the Gators, it was how they did it. They forced two late turnovers – something Florida had done to them throughout most of the game. They kept attacking the basket instead of just settling for jumpers. And their veterans stepped up when they needed plays.

Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson started it off with Hill’s layup with 46 seconds left and Johnson’s steal on the ensuing inbounds pass. But it was fitting that Mark Lyons made the game-winning shot. Lyons was the one player who didn’t wilt when Florida pulled away in the second half and his decision to attack for the go-ahead layup is exactly why he’s the most impact transfer in the Pac-12 besides Larry Drew. That fearlessness has brought extra resolve to a talented Wildcats team.

The win confirmed Arizona’s the best team in the Pac-12 but nationally? They deserve to move up into the Top-5 and with Indiana losing to Butler in overtime, you could argue they be ranked maybe as high as No. 4.

Either way, they announced Saturday that they deserve to be mentioned as one of the nation’s best teams. They defeated a Florida team that has steamrolled their opposition and hadn’t been tested all season. Best of all, they gave the Pac-12 a much needed boost after a disappointing December.

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