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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball: Wildcats slip past NAU

A pretty 7-1 start to the season was a misleading beginning for a young Arizona Wildcat basketball team.

A narrow victory over Cal State Fullerton, a bludgeoning at the hands of BYU and Thursday night’s 63-58 scare against the NAU Lumberjacks, however, is reality.

“”There’s a reason they have seven wins,”” head coach Sean Miller said of NAU, happy to come away with a win and not overly concerned with the close score. “”It was great for us to fight through and get a win.””

The first half provided Arizona (9-2) with similar pressing issues as did the BYU loss.

A zone defense by the Lumberjacks and 27 percent UA shooting in the first half coincided with the Arizona opposition smothering forward Derrick Williams. NAU guard Cameron Jones helped build a Lumberjack lead as big as 12 points, torching the UA defense for 21 first-half points.

But two bench players and a defensive turnaround in the second half led by forward Kevin Parrom and guard Brendon Lavender would send Arizona off to North Carolina State on a one-game winning streak.

“”Tonight, depth won out,”” Miller said. “”We had two guys come off the bench and make plays.””

Arizona led briefly in the first half until the Lumberjacks took the lead with 16 minutes to play. 

The biggest NAU lead of 20-8 came at the 10-minute mark. Arizona responded a run to cut the difference to three points, 22-19, with under five minutes before halftime. NAU went into the break with a 31-24 advantage.

Arizona struggled to cut into the lead in the second half, even with Parrom playing with the with starting unit in place of forward Solomon Hill. Parrom scored on two 3-pointers in the first half and found himself 14 points, five rebounds and four assists on the night, winning the Fiesta Bowl Classic MVP award.

Williams quietly scored 17 points, nine of which came from the foul line, and Arizona wore down NAU as the game grew older.

“”It all started with the defensive side,”” Williams said. “”We just had to get more stops. That just led to our offense.””

Jones scored only six points in the second half and finished the game with 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting as Arizona’s defense tightened up.

“”Just because you play in a different type of conference … doesn’t mean you’re any less of a great player,”” Miller said of Jones. “”We’re not going to face anyone better than him.””

With 8:27 on the game clock, Lavender hit his second of two consecutive 3-pointers from the left wing to give Arizona its first lead since four minutes into the game. The Wildcat shooters heated up in the second half, shooting 59 percent.

“”I always tell Lav, ‘just shoot,'”” Parrom said. “”Everybody on our team knows he can shoot.””

Williams followed that up with his own bomb to put the Wildcat lead at 49-45.

The Lumberjacks retook the lead with a couples minutes to play, but a 3-pointer by Hill put the Wildcats back on top 58-56.

The game tied at 58 with just more than a minute to go, Parrom came up with the big bucket, a made foul shot off an And 1 jump hook in the lane with 51 seconds to play.

Leading by three, Lavender stole an NAU inbound pass and dunked the ball with 21 seconds remaining to seal the victory for Arizona.

“”I thought they out-executed us,”” Miller said. “”Being able to learn a lot of lessons about this game is going to be valuable moving forward.””

 

Late start

Originally scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off, the Arizona Wildcat men’s basketball match-up with the NAU Lumberjacks was pushed back to a 8:35 start due to travel problems caused by poor weather.

Snow in Flagstaff made it unable for the team’s charter plane to land.

Instead, NAU was forced to drive to the Phoenix metro area where the team’s charter plane also had trouble landing at the Deer Valley Airport. The team then drove to Sky Harbor International airport to catch a flight to Tucson, according to the Arizona sports information department.

NAU was quickly bussed to McKale Center and arrived at approximately 7:40 p.m.

The Arizona Daily Star reported earlier in the week that the Lumberjacks planned such a risky travel schedule because a few of the NAU players had class finals on Thursday.

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