The youth and depth of No. 12-ranked Arizona showed up early in Saturday's matinee, but it was the 3-point shooting of a veteran one-time reserve that prevented a disastrous meltdown against Washington State.
Kevin Parrom scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the second half to lead the first-place Wildcats to a 73-56 victory over the last-place Cougars in a Pac-12 Conference showdown in front of 14,545 at McKale Center.
Parrom made 6 of 7 shots - including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc - to help UA (23-4, 11-4 Pac-12) hold off Wazzu, which shot 52.2 percent in the second half.
"I was patient these past few games in trying to get my shots down instead of forcing them," said Parrom, who matched his career high on 3-point field goals. "I have to be patient and let the game come to me. My teammates helped me out by getting me open for shots. It was a good night for me and I'm glad I played well."
Freshmen Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski combined to add 25 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona, which shot 55.6 percent from the field.
"It's tough being a freshman, but as the games go on I gain confidence," said Tarczewski, who made 4 of 6 shots to finish with 12 points.
The Cougars (11-17, 2-13 Pac-12) made a pair of serious runs in the second half. The 'Cats led by as many as 22, but Wazzu went on a 10-0 run capped by Brett Boese's 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 12 with 12:47 remaining.
UA briefly restored the advantage to 16, but a Cougars 7-2 spurt made it an 11-point game with 8:22 to play. Brock Motum missed an opportunity to pull the Cougs within single digits, missing on a pair of free throws with 7:45 left. For the game, WSU shot a woeful 14 of 28 at the line.
But Parrom's 3-point shooting put WSU away for good. In a 1-minute, 12-second span, the senior drilled three 3-pointers to push the lead back up to 58-42 with less than six minutes to play.
"I don't know where we would be in this game if Kevin didn't play the way he did," UA head coach Sean Miller said.
Motum powered Wazzu with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but he missed 6 of 11 free throws. The miscues at the line were too much to overcome for a team playing without second-leading scorer Mike Ladd, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a left knee injury.
"We continued to miss free throws," Cougars head coach Ken Bone said. "We had a couple good breakaway, two-on-one situations but you have to get it down to single digits and put pressure on the home team. We didn't do that."
Regardless, Miller was unhappy with the inconsistent second-half efforts - more specifically, the "terrible" defense - and the stagnant play against opposing zone defenses. For a team looking to secure a regular-season conference title, the fourth-year head coach said more will be needed in the remaining three games before the Pac-12 tournament.
"We have to be able to leave this game, move forward, and play better," Miller said. "It's going to take a great performance at USC for us."
Openly agitated, he later added: "We're in a real quandary. We do not play hard on defense."
After failing to crack double digits until past the midway point of the first half Wednesday against Washington, the Wildcats got off to a quick start on this afternoon. Ashley's mid-range jump shot gave UA an 11-6 lead with 14:03 left in the half.
Miller went into his bench early, giving 10 players minutes by the 13:41 mark. The reserves rewarded his decision, accounting for 13 of the team's 35 first-half points.
The bench proved to be a source of energy throughout the half. Leading 26-15, Ashley batted an offensive rebound off the glass to Angelo Chol, who then found Mark Lyons for an open 3-pointer to extend the advantage to 14 points with 4:47 remaining.
Miller said Lyons - who finished with 14 points in his 33 minutes - was battling a stomach flu, leading to the different lineup combinations early in the contest.
UA made 13 of 24 shots - including five 3-pointers - before the break and rolled to a 35-19 halftime lead. Eleven of the 13 made field goals yielded an assist, and the Wildcats finished the game with 19 assists to just 11 turnovers.
"We're not the best passing team," Miller said. "We're trying to get better at it. That's what is remarkable about 19 assists and 11 turnovers. It really shows a team that shares the ball and makes the extra pass."
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor