Xavier’s TBT team is comprised of fan favorites and cult heroes of teams gone by. In this brief series we are going to focus on the moment that encapsulates that players career. This won’t necessarily be the guy’s best game or his biggest scoring output, but it will be the one (we think) that demonstrates what he meant to the program or the one that everyone will remember. Feel free to disagree in the comments and on Twitter.
Mark Lyons arrived on Xavier’s campus from Albany, NY as a freshman with swagger, an aggressive playing style, and a tattoo on his arm that proclaimed him the King of Upstate. As a freshman, he garnered a significant amount of playing time considering the backcourt options of Jordan Crawford, Tu Holloway, and Dante Jackson that were all ahead of him in the rotation as well as the presence of sharpshooter Brad Redford to provide punch off the bench. He was rarely if ever option A that season, as evidenced by the fact he took 10 total shots during Xavier’s run to the Sweet Sixteen. As a Sophomore, with Crawford having left for the NBA, Lyons stepped to the fore and came into his own as the primarily off the ball half of he and Holloway’s tenacious backcourt double act. And that is where the story of one of the most notable buy game walkovers in Xavier history begins.
In December of 2010, having lost at Gonzaga three days before Christmas, Xavier’s players were afforded the opportunity to go home and spend the holiday with their families, having a 6 day gap between their game in Spokane and a non-conference tilt with University of Albany in Cincinnati. That plan would be complicated for those traveling back to Cintas Center from upstate New York, however, as inclement weather gripped the area and prevented flights from following their normal schedule. With both Lyons and Holloway unable to fly back Xavier faced and even greater issue as their opponents for the game were also unable to take their flight. At that point a scheme was hatched, Lyons, a native of Albany himself, and Holloway would ride with the Great Danes team and staff in a chartered bus to make it to Cintas in time for the game. While Holloway ended up finding different accommodations, Lyons took Xavier’s opponents up on their generosity and hopped in with the people he would soon be competing with.
To say Albany probably lived to regret their grand gesture would be an understatement. With Holloway deferring, likely due to his own arduous journey, Lyons went off. He went 6-9 from three and added a steal to an 18/1/5 line on the night, his 7th double digit scoring game in the first 11 outings of the season. In a game that was mostly a foregone conclusion prior to the season, there was likely no one who aided Xavier more in navigating the unique circumstances surrounding the game that the man who got off the opponents team bus and led X in scoring that night, adding a compelling backstory to an otherwise unremarkable 88-64 thrashing.
Lyons, of course, would go on to author some other huge moments for Xavier as they made it back to the Sweet Sixteen in his Junior season thanks in part to his team best 39% mark from three that season and his 15.1 points per game. After that year, he would depart for Arizona to play his final season for current Xavier coach Sean Miller (I love writing that), the coach who had originally recruited him to Xavier, and was named first team all Pac-12 for his efforts. His pro career has taken him to France, Croatia, Israel, Turkey, China, Russia, Lebanon, Italy, Puerto Rico, and Greece with his most successful stints coming in Israel.