Facing zone defenses has been the Arizona Wildcats' Achilles heel this season. And while zones do take UA out of their bread and butter of Sean Miller's motion offense, on Saturday against the Washington State Cougars, the Wildcats showed that they are very capable of busting them.
Kevin Parrom's insertion in the starting lineup helps off the bat at the beginning of halves. It also allows for more defensive switches, as sometimes four players outside of center Kaleb Tarczewski can swap duties on screens around the perimeter.
Both of those issues alleviated an Arizona team that was struggling previously in a 73-56 win against WSU in McKale Center Saturday. Parrom, however, found a new way to act as the zone buster.
Previously the middle-of-the-floor passer, Parrom did most of his damage with his own scoring. Often, he would begin standing in the middle of the floor to receive passes from Arizona's guards. But instead of forcing passes to big men like Tarczewski or Brandon Ashley in the paint --which a few games back against Cal saw him turn the ball over three times on passes in traffic -- Parrom was careful and didn't turn the ball over against WSU.
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Instead, he'd often move the Cougars' zone by flinging the ball back outside, then relocating to the perimeter himself.
Teammates like Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson swung the ball well on Saturday. They combined for eight points in the first half and each had three assists. As a team, only six UA's total of the 25 makes weren't assisted as Arizona shot 55.6 percent from the floor and 11-of-22 from three-point range.
That means just about half of UA's 45 shot attempts were three-pointers. The different compared to the recent games was the quality of shots.
Parrom was a big beneficiary of his own initiation of the offense. He hit the first two shots of the game, both threes, and then drilled three three-pointers in a row against a zone once the Cougars had made a run to nearly get the game back within single digits during the second half. A 22-point deficit with under 17 minutes to play, WSU answered with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes and came within 11 points. Parrom hit his trio of three-point jumpers as the Wildcats began swinging the ball around the perimeter and breaking down the Cougars' zone.
Parrom finished with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 5-of-6 accuracy behind the three-point line.
Tarczewski also benefitted from a struggling WSU defense, scoring a career-high 12 points, grabbing six boards and once making an off-balance touch pass back to Parrom for one of his five threes.
Lyons scored 14 points to go with four assists and three steals, though his Twitter proclamation to not shoot "that many" threes again after the Utah game nearly became broken word as he launched eight shots from deep out of his 11 total -- at the same time, most of them were in rhythm shots, and he did make three.
got the good road win! I won't ever in my life shoot that many threes again in a game smh even if they do go in and out! #ATTACK MENTALITY!— Mark moog Lyons (@OnlyMoog) February 18, 2013
Hill and Johnson didn't force the issue. Johnson had a team-high six assists while holding Royce Woolridge to just six points. Hill was often challenge with guarding Motum, who scored 20 but didn't have the help to score with the Wildcats.
Arizona now has put together two strong-looking efforts. It's to be noted that the Cougars went to the foul stripe 28 times and only made half of their buckets, meaning the 17-point loss could have been a different story had WSU taken care of business.
However the win might come by, it's likely the Wildcats are happy with the effort. Often times this season they've gotten the best of even bad teams, and against Washington State, they saw some decent ball from a team simply without room for the error on those free throw struggles.
Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats saw confident production from Tarczewski, who was active throughout. And Miller also got the first big-time game from Parrom in the starting lineup.
In a message to other teams that Arizona isn't afraid to pull the trigger from deep if a zone is thrown its way, Saturday was a good day for the team.