Arizona's prolific and ever-personal tweeter, Kevin Parrom assured followers late Saturday night that everything was OK.
"Just wanna let the fans know that this season isn't over," a post on his Twitter page read. Another said, "There is no time to feel sorry for me or my injury. I appreciate all the love and support but we still got to win the Pac-12."
Optimistic sentiments, to be sure. But the reality appears dim.
On a night when they all but kicked themselves out of Pac-12 title contention with a 69-67 homecourt loss to Washington, the Wildcats later found they lost their valuable, versatile sixth man for the season with a broken foot.
Arizona (5-4 in conference play) must now play five of its final nine games on the road, starting with a difficult swing to California and Stanford this week, and really only has near-certain wins remaining at home against Utah and USC. The Wildcats are on pace for an undesirable four-game track through the Pac-12 tournament and their No. 72 RPI suggests they are outside the NCAA tournament bubble.
While Arizona is getting all-league-caliber play out of forward Solomon Hill, who had a career-high 28 points against the Huskies on Saturday, it still has many of the same problems it had back in November: The Wildcats start out games slow, they don't take care of the ball, they can't match up with true centers, and they don't have an effective late-game closer.
And now, without Parrom, there's another weakness. The Wildcats likely will have to stick to a three-guard lineup the rest of the way, for better or worse.
"Kevin brings another offensive rebounder, just another force," Hill said. "Especially when me, him and Jesse (Perry) play, it's one of our biggest lineups. For him to go down, it's a big part of our team. It kind of sucked not having him earlier in the season. Lately, it was breakout time and to see him go down like that really took a toll on our team."
Only in the past two weeks coach Sean Miller was finally seeing Parrom excel in the kind of bigger frontcourt he wanted all along. Sidelined for the preseason and the Wildcats' first two games while recovering from gunshot wounds suffered in September, Parrom returned Nov. 13 but leveled off until earlier this month.
During the Wildcats' trip through Utah and Colorado on Jan. 19-21, Parrom approached the all-around level that he did as a top reserve last season.
In the first half Saturday, Parrom was producing again. He had seven points, three rebounds and two assists while getting to the free throw line six times.
Then he left the game with just over a minute to go before halftime, hurting his foot at a point Miller was unsure of, and didn't return to the team bench until almost halfway through the second half. He will not play again, needing surgery to repair the broken foot bone, according to a UA statement.
"We missed him, no question about it," Miller said Saturday, before UA announced the full extent of the injury. "It's a shame because Kevin right now is (effectively) a starter. He is. He would have probably been a starter from the first day of the season until now, but on the Colorado-Utah swing was probably the first time we saw him running and playing and confident. He almost had his full strength back. He played an excellent half against Washington today.
"Not having him available for the second half was kind of the same look we've had prior to him coming back and our margin for error is razor-thin without him, that's for sure."
Miller had some reason for encouragement Saturday in the efficient performance of Hill, who had 28 points on 9-for-10 field goal shooting and 8-for-9 free-throw shooting while also collecting 11 rebounds.
"It was one of the best games I've seen a player have in my two-and-a-half years here," Miller said. "He was terrific. … He just did everything."
But Miller also watched freshman guard Nick Johnson struggle again, with two points on 1-for-4 shooting. Johnson has only 11 points in his past three games.
"He's a freshman and freshmen sometimes can go though this," Miller said. "There's no question we need him to play better and he knows that. He's probably pressing a little bit."
Not surprisingly, Miller said getting Johnson back and playing well is "something we really need."
Especially now, because Parrom isn't coming back.
"Life's not fair sometimes," Miller said. "You want to win every game and that's the job that I have. But from (Parrom's) perspective it would be nice if he could just catch a break."
• Who: Arizona at Cal
• When: 9 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ