TUCSON, Ariz. – Stanford got off to a great start and stayed close even when No. 7 Arizona fought back.
The Cardinal faded down the stretch, but hanging with a top-10 team in one of college basketball's toughest environments is a good sign.
Dwight Powell scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, but Stanford couldn't stop Arizona and it seniors in the second half of a 73-66 loss Wednesday night on the 40th anniversary of the first game at the McKale Center.
"It shows they can compete at this level," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "This is a tough environment. It was a great effort, but it's not about the moral victories for us. It's about what we have to do to win.
Stanford (14-9, 5-5) dominated Arizona early to put a damper on Arizona's celebration. Even as the Wildcats rallied and the McKale Center came to life, the Cardinal stayed close behind Dwight Powell, who scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half.
Stanford faded down the stretch, though, unable to stop Lyons and Hill or handle Arizona's defensive pressure in the game's final 3 minutes.
Powell grabbed 10 rebounds, but had five turnovers, and Aaron Bright added 16 points for the Cardinal, who finished 7 of 19 from 3-point range.
"Even though tonight was a loss, we came out and showed we can hang with anyone in the country," said Stanford's Josh Huestis, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. "We let things down in the last couple of minutes and that's where we lost it."
Playing in front of color-coordinated crowd at the McKale Center, Arizona (20-2, 8-2 Pac-12) came out flat, spoiling the festive atmosphere inside its 40-year-old arena.
The Wildcats needed most of the first half to catch the Cardinal and traded a flurry of made baskets in a back-and-forth second half before seniors Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill took over.
Lyons has turned his lone season in the desert into a get-it-done showcase, making big plays down the stretch of close games all year. He did it again against the Cardinal, hitting jumpers, scoring on hard drives and setting up his teammates for easy baskets inside.
Hill has the same kind of mentality in close games in his final season in Tucson, becoming more aggressive when team needs it. He also ramped up with the game on the line, shaking off a 1-for-6 first half by hitting some big shots, including a thunderous dunk on a drive down the lane that brought the fans to their feet and put the Wildcats firmly in control.
Lyons finished with a season-high 25 points and Hill scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half.
Behind its two seniors and with a lift from Angelo Chol — he had eight rebounds and six points with Grant Jerrett out — Arizona made 15 of 25 shots in the second half.
"Their seniors really stepped up," Dawkins said. "Lyons and Hill made a big difference in the end there."
The McKale Center became one of college basketball's most difficult places to visit during its 40 years of existence, the rowdy fans and strong Arizona teams often overwhelming opponents.
The arena named after former athletic director J.K. "Pop" McKale has been home to some of the game's best players, from Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr to Jason Gardner and Derrick Williams, along with a Hall of Fame coach in Lute Olson.
The Wildcats won 67 of their first 70 games after McKale Center opened and kept going, posting a winning percentage of .832, including 10 undefeated home seasons.
Stanford, like so many other teams, hasn't had much luck in the building, losing 28 of 36 games.
The Cardinal scored the game's first 10 points and kept Arizona close after the Wildcats rallied.
They just didn't have an answer for Lyons down the stretch.
Despite an elbow to the throat that had him coughing in pain on the bench, Lyons followed a missed jumper by Powell to set up Chol for a layup with a dish inside, then scored on backdoor cut to cap a 9-0 run that put the Wildcats up 58-54.
After Bright hit a 3-pointer, Lyons followed with one of his own and found Kevin Parrom in the corner for another that stretched the lead to 65-59 with 1:39 left.
"Mark not only scored tonight, he made his teammates better," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "His six assists were much closer to eight or nine. He ran the team and led the team, and really let the game come to him."