Mark Lyons

Arizona advances to Sweet 16 after sending home upset-minded Harvard

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No. 14-seeded Harvard’s moment in the spotlight has ended, coming to its conclusion Saturday evening with a 74-51 loss to Arizona at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Arizona was led by the senior duo of Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, who had 27 points and 13 points respectively. Those two carried the offensive attack while the defense used its length to disrupt anything that Harvard tried to get going on that end of the floor. It wasn’t a matter of forcing turnovers (the Wildcats turned the Crimson over just eight times) but more about making the Crimson uncomfortable and unable to hit shots.

But how much can we really know about Arizona after the Wildcats made the Sweet 16 by getting wins over Belmont and Harvard? Give credit to them for beating teams that they should have beaten and beating them in the way that they should have. At the same time, both Belmont and Harvard have no real size on the interior, an area where Arizona could wilt against a challenge.

Without experience in the post between Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, and Kaleb Tarczewski, a tough front line in the paint could spell trouble like it did at points in the Pac-12 season.

The other major question will be if the Wildcats can take care of the basketball against a team like Ohio State, who Arizona could meet if the Buckeyes get past Iowa State and advance to the Sweet 16. Mark Lyons is proving that he is the best ball handling option on the roster, but how will he fair against the defensive pressure that point guard Aaron Craft and Ohio State would bring?

Craft would be able to harass Lyons and force the ball elsewhere offensively. Considering that Lyons went 12-of-17 from the floor Saturday, Arizona would have to find a way to score without him if Craft locks him down. In back-to-back losses to UCLA and USC late in the conference season, Lyons shot a combined 6-of-24 from the floor. Effectively eliminating him changes the way Arizona plays.

Just as the 2013 tournament has been so far, it will come down to a matchup. Arizona now must await word of what that match up will be in the Sweet 16.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.