The “so-called” experts predicted that Arizona would beat Southern Miss by 16 points on Tuesday night at McKale Center. The only problem, Southern Miss wasn’t on board with this plan. The Golden Eagles came out with the passion and energy needed to win this game. You could tell this team believed that they could knock off the No. 8 team in the country.
Southern Mississippi’s defensive intensity forced Arizona into a season-high 27 turnovers. Having trouble against the Golden Eagles zone, Arizona looked sloppy and out-of-sorts all night. As the first-half finished up, the home crowd was quiet as the unranked, road-team took a 35-27 lead into the locker room.
Sean Miller decided to rely on his veterans players in the second half to try and rally and avoid a crushing loss. It proved to be a brilliant coaching decision as the proven players came together and pulled out a 63-55 win.
“Everyone focuses on our freshman and our new talent. We love those guys and they’ve already shown us what they do, but when you play against a zone can like Southern Mississippi – not to mention the physicality on the glass at the other end – we went with our oldest, most experienced players,” said Sean Miller after the game.
My Stamp of Approval goes to Kevin Parrom, one of those seasoned players who put his team on his back on Tuesday night. Nick Johnson was the games leading scorer with 23 points and had some big plays in the second half but Parrom’s spark off the bench and his clutch performance in the second half earned him the SOA honor.
Parrom was instrumental in helping the Wildcats figure out and break down the feisty zone defense and he scored seven of his 14 points during a critical stretch late in the game, including a huge three-pointer to give the Cats a lead they would eventually hold onto in the closing minutes.
“He [Miller] basically looked at the seniors and asked if we wanted to play hard or lose to Southern Mississippi. He wasn’t yelling at us because we all knew what we had to do. I’ve been in McKale for four years so I’ve been in those situations before and I knew what we had to do,” said Parrom on how the team turned it around in the second half.