Arizona will want to avoid a letdown after its biggest victory of the season since its next game precedes a trip to Hawaii. The fourth-ranked Wildcats can start 9-0 for the first time in a quarter-century when they host Oral Roberts and high-scoring Warren Niles on Tuesday night.
Arizona scored the game’s final seven points in the last 56 seconds to stun then-No. 8 Florida 65-64 at home Saturday. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons made the game-winning layup with 7 seconds left, calling it the biggest shot he has hit in his life.
“We believe in a lot of guys on this team, but no one believes in Mark Lyons more than me,” coach Sean Miller said. “I’ve seen him since he’s been in 10th grade. Some guys are wired for the big moment, big stage. That big shot, he wants to take it or make the big play and no question when he drove I knew that something good was going to happen.”
The Wildcats can begin with nine victories for the first time since the 1987-88 team went 12-0 en route to the Final Four. Arizona will try to improve to 7-0 at home before it begins play Saturday in Honolulu at the Diamond Head Classic.
Rebounding could be a concern for the Wildcats, who were outrebounded 33-22 by the Gators and gave up 12 offensive boards while grabbing four. Improving that aspect of their game is something that Miller probably needs to get through to his team.
“We did a good job on offensive rebounding tonight, but there are a lot of things we can improve on,” forward Solomon Hill said.
The coach must also help his team guard against overconfidence.
“We’re the real deal,” sophomore guard Nick Johnson said. “Everybody said something about our schedule before this and this was the opportunity to prove ourselves in front of the nation.”
The Wildcats’ defense will set their sights on Niles, who is averaging 20.9 points to lead all Southland Conference players. Niles, a 6-foot-5 senior swingman, has made 28 of 54 3-pointers (51.9 percent) and has demonstrated consistency with three straight 21-point efforts.
Oral Roberts (5-4) has not played since an 86-77 victory at Texas State on Dec. 5. The Golden Eagles allowed the Bobcats to make their first eight shots to fall into an early 12-point deficit before recovering to build a five-point advantage at the break and leading the rest of the way.
“We came out flat and missed shots,” coach Scott Sutton said. “I thought we got great looks early and couldn’t make anything and then we allowed them to get in transition.”
These schools have never met, although Lyons may have some familiarity with Oral Roberts. The guard was serving a suspension with the Musketeers last season for his role in a brawl with Cincinnati and sat out Xavier’s 64-42 home loss to the Golden Eagles on Dec. 18, 2011.