The Arizona Wildcats struggled early on in Tuesday night's game and found themselves playing catch-up for much of the contest. UA eventually gained control of the game down the stretch and was able to hold on to defeat Southern Miss 63-55.
The victory keeps Arizona's winning streak to start the season alive at six games and the Wildcats were able to avoid what may have been a bad loss to take in non-conference play.
Turnovers are what allowed the Golden Eagles to stay in this game. Arizona struggled playing with control on the offensive end of the floor and it made what should have been an easy victory much tougher for Arizona to come up with. It could have very well gone USM's way, but the scoring of Nick Johnson and the second half surge from Kevin Parrom helped UA avoid the upset.
Johnson finished the game with 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting and dished out four assists. Johnson did it from all areas of the court, knocking down a pair of three-point shots and finishing multiple times around the basket. He also made a big impact on the defensive end of the floor, collecting three steals and constantly putting pressure on the ball-handler.
One area Johnson struggled in, as did many Wildcats, was playing under control at the offensive end of the floor. The sophomore led Arizona in turnovers with six, often due to over-dribbling into defenders or making a questionable pass.
Parrom's second half is really put the Wildcats over the top in this affair. The senior scored 13 of his 14 points in that time frame as he was able to provide UA with another scoring option outside of Johnson. Parrom also provided a big boost on the glass, grabbing eight rebounds to lead all players.
Despite turning the ball over five times, Parrom played one of his better games of the early campaign and if he continues to build off that, it will provide Arizona with the perfect component off the bench over the long haul.
No other player for UA reached double-figures as Arizona struggled on offense. Mark Lyons went 0-for-7 from the floor, Brandon Ashley failed to knock down a field goal and finished with just one point, and the Wildcats turned the ball over a season-high 27 times.
They also struggled neutralizing the zone and one of the biggest obstacles in overcoming the defense was their outside shooting. Coming in to the game as the fifth-ranked three-point shooting team in the country, UA hit just six out of 20 attempts from long range.
The 27 turnovers are obviously entirely too many. Luckily for Arizona, Southern Miss also struggled to control the ball and coughed up possession 23 times. Against tougher teams, the Wildcats are not going to be able to play with such reckless abandon if they want to be able to win.
Arizona struggled protecting the glass more so on Tuesday than it has in any other game this season. USM grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and was able to translate that into 13 second chance points. The trio of freshman post players were brought in to eliminate that problem, but the added size didn't seem to make as big of a difference against Southern Miss.
The Arizona defense clamped down in the second half and stunted the Golden Eagles' chances of holding on to their lead. After knocking down five three-pointers and shooting 41 percent from the field in the first half, USM was shut out from beyond the arc and hit 36 percent of its shots over the final 20 minutes of play.
In the first half, the Golden Eagles were able to turn 13 UA turnover into 18 points, but they didn't have as much luck cashing in on their takeaways in the second half. The Wildcats turned the ball over 14 times in the final 20 minutes of play, but Southern Miss could only translate that into eight points.
Meanwhile, after scoring just nine points off turnovers in the first frame, Arizona picked up 19 points off turnovers in the second half. The turnaround from one half to the next was one of the biggest factors in UA's victory.