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No. 8 Arizona Takes Down No. 5 Florida in Thrilling Fashion
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/15/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 16, 2012

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Mark Lyons hit a contested layup with 7 seconds left and No. 8 Arizona rallied from a six-point deficit in the final minute to pull out an improbable 65-64 win over No. 5 Florida on Saturday night.

Arizona (8-0) struggled with Florida's mix of zone and man defenses, falling behind by 11 in the second half before rallying late. The Wildcats used their press to force consecutive turnovers on inbounds plays, pulling within 64-63 after Grant Jerrett hit one of two free throws.

Arizona fouled Kenny Boynton, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1, then raced to the other end for Lyons' driving shot.

Florida (7-1) botched its final possession, fumbling the ball away before taking a wild 3-pointer.

Solomon Hill had 18 points, Nick Johnson added 15 and Lyons 14 to give Arizona its best start since opening the 1998-99 season with eight straight wins.

Mike Rosario led Florida with 16 points and Erik Murphy added 15.

The Gators and Wildcats cruised through their early schedules to set up the McKale Center's first matchup between top 10 teams since 2004.

Florida came to the desert with a stifling defense - second nationally at 48.3 points per game - and the nation's third-widest margin of victory, winning by an average of 25.3 points. The Gators have a talented frontline, experienced guards and good balance.

Florida turned its first true road game of the season into a walkover, holding Florida State to its lowest point total ever at the Tucker Center in a 72-47 win on Dec. 5.

Arizona also has a talented frontcourt and steady guards, though is a bit more offensively oriented, averaging nearly 80 points while winning by 20 a game. The Wildcats rely on three heralded freshmen - Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Jerrett - but also have a core of veteran players coach Sean Miller can turn to when things get tight.

The older guys came through down the stretch in a win over Southern Miss on Dec. 4 and again last Saturday, when Lyons, a graduate transfer from Xavier, scored 20 points in a 66-54 road win over Clemson.

Putting the Gators and Wildcats together on the same court set up one of college basketball's best nonconference games of the season, one that had the McKale Center rocking despite the late start and school out for the semester.

The teams put on an offensive show in the early going, trading 3-pointers and baskets inside.

Arizona couldn't keep it up.

Struggling against Florida's ever-changing defense, the Wildcats couldn't seem to make anything, open or contested, and had some careless turnovers while going 7 1/2 minutes between field goals. Arizona hit a few shots to get the crowd back into it, then went cold again, falling behind 30-19.

The Gators slowed down on offense, too, just a little later.

Florida went through a shooting funk midway through the first half, hit a few shots and labored down the stretch, going scoreless over the final 3:06 to shoot 12 of 33.

Arizona closed within 32-29 at halftime after Johnson hit consecutive 3-pointers and Hill scored on a breakaway dunk off a steal just before the buzzer. The Wildcats shot 9 of 22 in the half.

Arizona kept missing to start the second half. Florida didn't.

The Gators made seven of their first eight shots, going up 49-39 on Scottie Wilbekin's 3-pointer from the wing.

But the Wildcats weren't done, finally getting a few shots to fall and pulling to 61-58 on long 3-pointers by Johnson and Lyons from the same spot with about 5 minutes left to set up the wild finish.

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