Lyons keeping team first mentality

The Arizona Wildcats narrowly escaped the weekend with two victories. Senior guard Mark Lyons spoke briefly about the weekend and the upcoming week. Read on to find out his thoughts on the Christmas break, the Oregon schools, and more.

The Arizona Wildcats capped the opening weekend of Pac-12 play with two close wins over Colorado and Utah. They extended their winning streak to fourteen consecutive games without a loss on the year, including a perfect 2-0 record in conference play.

They haven't played their best, but senior transfer Mark Lyons believes that conference play is only going to get harder as the season goes along.

"Teams are going to scout and everybody is going to have some familiarity in the conference," Lyons said. "People know each others' plays and personnel. We are just trying to work on getting better. Close games are going to happen, but as long as we close them out, we just have to keep getting better from there."

Head Coach Sean Miller mentioned that the trip to Hawaii over Christmas may have been the reason that the Wildcats struggled against Colorado and Utah. He cited the fact that the team barely practiced in Hawaii and then took three days off for a break when they came back.

The senior guard agrees that the trip was tough on the players, but also thinks that the break afterwards was what really hurt the team.

"I'm not the type to make excuses, but it was kind of tough," Lyons said when asked about the difficulty of traveling to Hawaii and playing three games in four days. "We had a long stretch of twenty days that took a lot from our bodies and sometimes we need a break. As a basketball player, sometimes you need a break and just step away from the game for a few days.

"That actually hurt us over the break. I feel that if we didn't have that little Christmas break and couple of days off, we would be clicking a lot better. Guys had to get home and see their families and things like that. We came back and got two victories though."

With the team being highly ranked and undefeated, it is not something that is going to the Wildcats' heads. As a senior, Lyons sets an example for the younger players by showing his teammates that they need to improve every day.

"We're a team that just wants to get better," he said. "We're not like the fat cats who are happy with 14-0 and things like that.

"We just take it one game at a time and the next opponent is all we have to focus on. If we win, we win. If we lose, we have to learn from it. We just want to keep getting better at the end of the day."

The team is off to the best start in over 75 years and it is not going unnoticed, as having an undefeated record has put a target on the team's back. The only way the Wildcats can continue their winning ways is to continue improving every week.

"There are a lot of teams in the country that wish they were 14-0 and they were in our boat," Lyons said. "My last few years, I didn't start 14-0 and I don't know a lot of people in college basketball that do.

"We're not happy. We're not satisfied. We know we have to get better. Everyone has to get better, no matter how good you are. We are just trying to cherish every moment that we have together."

Up next for Arizona will be a road trip to the Oregon schools, starting with a tough game in Eugene on Thursday night. Lyons has helped his team prepare for the game during practices, but knows that the team has to play together and work together if it wants to come away with a victory.

"Oregon and Oregon State are two good teams, especially when it's at their spot," Lyons said of the upcoming road trip. "Just like every road game, you have to go in there with your team and know that its us versus everyone else. That's the mentality that we've been having, home or away.

"We are all in. Our team is a group of guys who all want to get better and are all working together. Sometimes that hurts us because we all want to make plays, but we all have each others' best interest. We all care about each other, so that's going to help us get through."

Rowdy fans at the new Matthew Knight Arena will likely greet Arizona and it is something that the senior looks forward to, as he relishes playing on the road in tough environments.

"I just like when people talk to me and root against me," Lyons said. "That's the type of thing I grew up with, people doubting me and things like that. When people talk about my team on the road, you're just giving me more fuel and my team more fuel to go out there and play harder and play together.

"I hear the little things they say, so when I make a good pass or score, it just fuels me up. Every time they say something I just say, ‘Alright, you think that way and I'm going to prove you wrong.'"

Lyons is no stranger to pressure or tough situations. He hit a game-winning layup against Florida and hit crucial free throws at the end of the wins over San Diego State, Colorado, and Utah. The senior believes in himself in those situations and his confidence is built on the faith his teammates put on him.

"I just know that my teammates have confidence in me," Lyons said. "I say it all the time that if they have confidence in me, I have to come through for them. They trust me with the ball in my hands at the end of the game and I just try to deliver."

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