Wild day for Wildcats: Arizona’s comeback win over Florida mirrors victory in bowl game

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

What a day for Arizona. First the football team finishes Rich Rodriguez's initial season in Tucson by scoring two touchdowns in the final minute of the New Mexico Bowl to beat Nevada.

[Related: Arizona makes miracle comeback in final minute to beat Nevada]

Then the basketball Wildcats followed up with a gutsy comeback in the final minute to beat No. 5 Florida 65-64 at the McKale Center in the first battle of top-10 teams at Arizona in nine years.

Wildcats fans might skip Sunday services believing their prayers already have been answered.

There were plenty of questions about the basketball Wildcats prior to Saturday. The game against Florida was the first against a ranked opponent this season. Whether they were overrated with a No. 8 ranking was a legitimate question on the minds of fans and voters alike.

But it appears Arizona will be a team to contend with and is solidly atop the Pac-12 Conference for now after finding a way to beat a Florida team with players who have made two consecutive trips to the Elite Eight. This was a true test of how far Arizona has come and how far it might be capable of going.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Xavier transfer Mark Lyons made the game-winning play for coach Sean Miller's team with 7 seconds left. Lyons played on three Sweet Sixteen teams earlier in his career before moving west for his senior season. Earning his degree from Xavier allowed him to play right away without having to sit out and Arizona fans were never more thankful to have Lyons than the moment the final horn sounded.

[Related: Walk-on guard leads shorthanded to Butler to OT upset of Indiana]

Another pregame story line for Arizona was how the Wildcats would contend with Florida's pressure without a true point guard to take control. Arizona only turned the ball over 10 times and it was Florida that gave the game away at the end succumbing to the Wildcats' pressure defense. The Gators committed three turnovers in their own end in the final minute.

There were moments when it looked like Florida would coast to yet another easy victory. The Gators led by 11 at one point, but Arizona hung around with sophomore guard Nick Johnson hitting several key 3-pointers.

Arizona is off to its best start at 8-0 since producing the same record to start the 1998-99 season.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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