Kevin Parrom had the play of the game in Arizona's 66-54 win over Clemson on Saturday. With the home-standing Tigers leading in the second half and Uncle Mo firmly on their side, K.J. McDaniels went to the rim for a dunk.
Parrom fouled McDaniels hard. The Arizona senior went for the ball and made no contact on McDaniels' head or neck, the telltale signs of a foul with malicious intent. But Parrom's foul was hard enough to incite a Flagrant Foul-1 call, formerly known as an intentional foul.
Clemson extended its lead on McDaniels' free throws and ensuing possession, but what the Tigers gained in points they lost in momentum. Had McDaniels flushed home that dunk, an already rocking Littlejohn Coliseum would have erupted.
His foul was the ultimate bigger picture play. Arizona regrouped shortly thereafter and went on to win its seventh straight.
Parrom has an innate ability to impact Arizona's performance in ways that don't appear in the box score. His hardnosed approach sets a tone on defense. On offense, he can step up when needed. He's an effective jump shooter and has a knack for finding open seams 5-to-15 feet from the basket. But Parrom is the kind of player who can impact a game without scoring a point.
When he laid a hard foul similar to the Flagrant-1 called in the Clemson game on Arizona State's Ty Abbott in 2010, he made a statement: "No easy buckets."
The Sean Miller era began in earnest with that play. No player could better typify the arrival of a tough, new philosophy for a program labeled soft for years.
Florida comes to town on Saturday. Against the Gators, UA has an opportunity to prove that these aren't the same, soft Wildcats of years past. Florida ascended to the pinnacle of college basketball at the same time Arizona's decline began. Billy Donovan's back-to-back national championship teams were loaded with talent, but played with an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style.
Donovan has instilled the same mindset in this year's undefeated and No. 6 ranked Gators. UF has held five of its seven opponents below 50 points. No Gator opponents has scored more than 66.
Rosario is a transfer from Rutgers and product of the talent-rich Tri-State area that cultivated Parrom's style. Rosario put up over 16 points per game in his two seasons at RU, but has taken a reduced role as a Gator. Last year, he filled a reserve role. This season, he's scoring 11.4 points per game.
Boynton is an All-America talent and UF's leading scorer at 14.4 per game. The Gator offense flows through Boynton, a fourth year contributor destined for the NBA.
Slowing the Gator guards is a key to victory no Florida opponent has unlocked yet this season. Parrom's lock down defensive ability takes on added importance on Saturday. With the inspirational senior leader on one of Florida's high scoring perimeter players, and budding star Nick Johnson on the other, Arizona has its crucial match-up.
Florida may score on Saturday, but the Gators' buckets won't come easy.