Nothing helps a team’s confidence, its chemistry, more than winning a close game on the road against a good team.
Not to mention winning in triple overtime.
With your star player on the bench.
The Arizona Wildcats, playing their craziest, most blood-pumping game of the season Saturday night, pulled out a 107-105 victory at Cal behind the New York swagger of point guard MoMo Jones and wing Kevin Parrom.
Arizona, back in the AP rankings for the first time in more than three years, is still climbing … and so much more seems possible than you might have dared to dream a few weeks ago. The Wildcats have won five in a row — three on the road — and are 20-4 overall. They lead the Pac-10 at 9-2.
“Sometimes in the long season that we go through, wins like this are very meaninful,” coach Sean Miller said in his postgame radio interview on KCUB 1290-AM. “Tonight, that’s certainly the case.”
Parrom scored 13 points through the overtime periods and had a career-high 25 points. Fellow sophomore Jones had 27 points, including 12 in the overtimes. He extended the game with a 3-pointer near the end of the second overtime.
Derrick Williams fouled out late in regulation with 12 points and 18 rebounds.
“I don’t think I have ever — nor has any of us — felt that we a one-man show,” Miller said.
“We have a great player in Derrick, but he plays on a team. Whether it’s offensively or defensively, there are a lot of players who have had big moments and contributed. I think our strength, in addition to having a really good player like Derrick, is that we really are a team.
“When your bench can contribute like tonight’s — when 52 points are scored — I think that says it all.”
For sure, a 52-3 advantage in bench points says a lot.
But what the game really says is that this team is exactly how Miller likes it. It is in his image. The tough-as-nails kid from western Pennsylvania wants a tough-as-nails team. One that plays defense. One that doesn’t shrink from a challenge. One that embraces the incremental day-to-day grind of just being a little bit better today than it was yesterday.
Toughness. You don’t win a three-overtime game on the road without it.
“It was a big week for our team,” Miller said, referring to a sweep of the Bay Area schools.
“We’ve fought. We’ve really worked very hard. Every time I think we’re trying to think big picture, I always come back to what I think is going to get us there — and that is to just continue to develop and work on the things that are going to make us a better team.”
Parrom and Jones led the charge Saturday night. No doubt. But there were others.
Jordin Mayes hit three 3-pointers in the first half. Jamelle Horne had back-to-back 3-pointers. Brendan Lavender made 4 of 4 free throws late in the game and drilled a 3-pointer in the second overtime. Kyle Fogg helped stop Cal’s superb freshman, Allen Crabbe, at the end.
The pace of the game was often fast. The pressure near the end was intense. But Arizona committed only 15 turnovers through 55 minutes — a stat that Miller loved.
“That’s a great job by our team,” he said.
“When we take care of the ball, we’re a much more difficult team to beat. And we had 14 second shots. Some of our best plays just happened with great hustle and effort. We ended up getting offensive rebounds that really broke Cal’s back.”
Parrom had a couple of those. He was everywhere. He showed an array of spins and moves in the low post. He stepped out to drain 3 of 5 3-pointers. His biggest 3-point shot was the one with 29.9 seconds left in regulation to bring Arizona within 75-73. An empty possession there, and the game is over.
Parrom played 36 minutes, making 9 of 12 shots. In addition to his 25 points, he had six rebounds and six assists.
“I never knew the definition of leaving it all on the floor until tonight,” Parrom said on 1290-AM. “I mean, I left it all on the floor. … I’m exhausted.”
Good news for Arizona is that it doesn’t have to play again until next Sunday at Arizona State.
“Thank goodness we have a week off,” Miller said. “It couldn’t come at a better time. I would hate to play a game on Thursday.”
With Arizona getting so many contributions right now from so many players, opponents might hate to play the Wildcats on any day.
Related link: Video: Arizona-Cal highlights
Related link: Arizona-Cal game blog