After Arizona’s improbable 92-83 overtime win against Colorado (10-3, 0-1 Pac-12) at McKale Center on Thursday night, Arizona’s Kevin Parrom sat alongside Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson for a post-game press conference.
One reporter asked Parrom about, after a winning a game where Arizona trailed by as many as 17 points and by 10 or more for most of it, if he felt something special brewing with this No. 3 Wildcats (13-0, 1-0) squad, which is officially to its best start in 80 years.
Parrom took a deep breath.
“Oh man,” he said. “I’m still trying to catch my breath from the game. I’m in shock.”
And understandably so.
With 4:13 left in the game after a layup from Colorado’s Sabatino Chen, the Wildcats trailed by 10 points at 68-58, and by 10 or more for 20:18 of the 40 minute regulation.
In the next 3:55, Lyons scored 10 points and Arizona outscored the Buffs 20-12, bringing the game back to within two points. Lyons finished with a game-high 24 points.
After a Lyons lay-up, Arizona fouled Colorado’s little-used guard Jeremy Adams.
The crowd was on their feet, and was as raucous as anything Johnson, a sophomore, had ever seen at McKale.
“I’ve never heard it like that,” Johnson said.
Adams missed both free throws, and Colorado fouled Lyons. Putting him at the line with a chance to tie the game and 9.2 seconds on the clock. Which he did, nailing two free throws to knot the game up at 80. It was the first time Arizona was locked up with the Buffs since the score was 6-6 early in the first half.
So, Colorado had another 9.2 seconds to put the now tightly-contested game away. Spencer Dinwiddie brought the ball up the court, and passed it to Chen, who had nowhere to go with the ball and forced up a contested 3-point jumper.
“We denied everybody, so I knew he had to shoot that,” Lyons said.
In theory, Chen might have been the one player Arizona wanted to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. The senior guard entered the game scoring 4.1 points per game and had made just two of his last 22 3-point attempts dating back to last season.
Well, he banked this one in as time expired, along with two others in scoring a career-high 15 points.
“He looked like Reggie Miller tonight,” Miller said.
Colorado rejoiced. Game over…or not.
After a few minutes of review, the officials controversially ruled that Chen didn’t get the shot off in time, bringing the game to overtime.
“It could have gone either way,” Miller said.
As the officials were reviewing the play, Miller huddled the Wildcats up despite the initial ruling that the shot was good.
“I was sending officials a subliminal message,” Miller said with a smirk. “That I knew the shot was no good. It was all an act.”
There was not a doubt in Lyons’ mind that Arizona would pull the game out from there.
“Everybody in the gym knew that,” said Lyons, who scored five points in the extra period. “If you’re the home team and you rally back and push it to overtime, it’s usually gonna be in your favor.”
Added Parrom: “…once we went into overtime I knew it was our game. When the [regulation] was over, I looked at Mark and he looked at me. We said this was our game.”
Arizona outscored Colorado 12-3 in overtime and improved its record to 24-11 in Pac-12 openers.
Parrom contributed five points in overtime and paced the Wildcats bench with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Despite the unthinkable comeback, Arizona’s struggles for the first 36 minutes of the game didn’t go un-noticed by Miller.
In the first half, Arizona shot 7-of-27 from the field and 3-of-11 from long range, and it’s early-season struggles defending the three were prevalent, as Colorado made 6-of-9 in the first half and 10-of-21 in the game.
Askia Booker led the Buffs with 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting, and Josh Scott added 15 points. Arizona held Andre Roberson to nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.
“We didn’t execute,” Miller said. “For me to say it was all us is not giving Colorado respect, they are a very good defensive team.”
“We would have gotten what we would’ve deserved if we would have lost,” he added.
For the game, Arizona shot 28-of-65, 8-of-23 from beyond the arc, and had six players score in double figures, including 15 from Solomon Hill, 12 from Johnson and 10 from both Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett.
Arizona will continue its Pac-12 slate against Utah on Saturday at 3 p.m. in McKale Center.