Kevin Parrom steps up for Arizona basketball
The story of Arizona’s senior guard Kevin Parrom has been told countless times. From the tragic passing of his mother and grandmother, to the gunshot wound and broken bone that derailed his junior season to his emergence as the Wildcats’ star sixth-man and recent inclusion in the starting lineup.
But, in Arizona’s 73-56 win against Washington State Saturday, Parrom was given a name he’s rarely received throughout his four years in Tucson — the game’s best player.
“I’m really proud of Kevin Parrom’s effort in the second half,” head coach Sean Miller said. “We really needed him to step up and make some shots and he did. We wouldn’t have won without him. He played a great game.”
In a game where Miller found little to be positive about, Parrom was one of the few bright spots in the Wildcats’ ugly win. He scored a season-high 19 points (6-for-7 from the field), led the game with seven rebounds and played solid defense in his 33 minutes of action.
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Where he really made a name for himself, though, was as a run killer. Parrom made a layup to end the Cougars 10-0 rally in the second half and later hit three-straight threes as WSU continued to make its comeback. Parrom’s clutch ability not only impressed Miller but showed just how valuable the senior can be when the Wildcats face zone defenses throughout the remainder of the season.
“In those moments where we really tightened up, I looked out there and didn’t see anyone who really wanted to shoot the ball,” Miller said. “He did. And he made some big shots.”
Zone defenses have been the Achilles’ heel for Arizona all season long, as they often stagnate the UA offense and force the Wildcats to play in the half-court. For a team that leads the Pac-12 in three-point percentage (36.2), the zone shouldn’t be such a detriment.
Yet, it has been. When the Wildcat offense stalls this season, more often than not it’s been from another team switching to a zone defense.
Miller felt some of the players were scared of the zone Saturday. Guys were passing up open looks and played tentatively when they caught the ball with room.
Not Parrom. Even with how off his shot has been of late.
Parrom missed his last five three-point attempts before he sunk the Wildcats’ first two shots from deep against Washington State. It wasn’t just a few cold games, either, as Arizona’s designated sharp-shooter made just 10 of his 39 (25.6 percent) three-point attempts in Pac-12 play before Saturday.
Considering he sunk 48.1 percent of his deep balls during nonconference play, Parrom had all the reason in the world to doubt his scoring touch. Instead, the senior stayed patient.
“I was happy the first one went in because I can’t remember when I last made a three,” Parrom said. “Once the first one went, I knew it was going to be a good night for me.”
Miller described Parrom as an unquestionably confident. Since the Wildcats seem to crumble when opponents switch to a zone defense, Parrom’s coolness from deep — even when his shooting touch is cold — will be crucial in March.
“It’s up to us to get him good shots; it’s up to him to take good shots,” Miller said. “And when he does, we just know that eventually that percentage will come up.”
“I think he’d be the first one to tell you the percentage that he shot in Pac-12 play isn’t reflective of who he is as a shooter.”
Parrom isn’t Arizona’s best player, and as his career winds down, there’s a chance he’ll never have a game at that same level. Only one other time has he played so well (in 2010), hitting 8-of-9 against Oregon on way to a career-high 20 points.
But opponents are surely going to implement the zone again. If Parrom can keep shooting like that, the dreaded defense will no longer be an issue.
Lyons feeling under the weather
The Cougars must be creating some butterflies in the stomachs of the Arizona backcourt because for the second time this season, an Arizona guard (this time senior Mark Lyons) played under the weather with a stomach flu he picked up before the game.
Lyons’ ailment wasn’t quite as bad as the virus Nick Johnson had before the Washington State game in Pullman, Wash., but the senior still played at less than 100 percent Saturday, Miller said.
“Early on he subbed himself out,” Miller said. “One time, we had four guys on the court because Lyons was sick, but we figured it out.”
With Lyons on the bench, Miller gave lesser-used guards Jordin Mayes and Gabe York playing time in the early minutes of the first half. Eventually, Lyons fought through the illness and tied Parrom for the most minutes (33) in the game for the UA.
Lyons scored 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but was reduced to more perimeter looks (eight three point attempts) as the fatigue kept him out of the lane. He had four assists to just one turnover and stole the ball three times as well.