EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson wanted to know how he’d play in his first true road game. The answer was pretty good.
Johnson scored 15 points to help No. 3 Arizona survive a scare and pull away late for a 60-55 victory against UTEP on Friday night.
“It was fun. We got off to a great start. They’re a very good team with a good player. It was a good game. I enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “It was the first road test for me as a freshman and I was interested to see how I’d respond.”
Gabe York scored 13 points and Brandon Ashley added 10 for the Wildcats (12-0), who played eight games at home and three on a neutral site at the Maui Invitational.
“When you go somewhere else, they’re not gonna like you and they’re gonna talk a lot of mess,” he said of playing on an opponent’s court.
“They had great fans here that kept them in the game,” Johnson said of the sell-out crowd of 12,000 at the Don Haskins Center. “Everybody wants to beat us. I was expecting a tough game.”
Vince Hunter had 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with more than eight minutes remaining to lead the Miners (6-4), who were hosting a top-3 team for the first time in program history. Omega Harris added 10 points.
Arizona made six of its first seven shots, including a dunk by Johnson to take a 15-2 with 14:46 remaining in the first half. But the game changed after Johnson missed a 3-pointer the next time down the court and Ashley missed two free throws.
UTEP stepped up its defensive intensity to help fuel a 16-4 run that saw the Miners pull to a 21-all tie after a dunk by Cedrick Lang with 3:11 to go in the first half.
Arizona led 28-25 at halftime and the game remained tight in the second half, as the Miners led 40-38 lead with 12:41 to go on an inside bucket by Hunter.
“He took over for about a 10-minute stretch, when we didn’t have an answer for him,” Miller said of Hunter.
But it was all Wildcats after that. Arizona held UTEP without a basket for more than 5 minutes while it pushed its lead up to 48-41 with a 10-1 run.
“We made the plays when we needed to,” Miller said. “We knew it was gonna be a hard-fought game here, especially with the crowd like that. Those are all things you grow from. This was a great test for us. Whether we won or lost, we feel like we’re a better team.”
Arizona: Wildcats coach Sean Miller wasn’t happy with the team’s 17 turnovers, even though they had one fewer than the Miners. “Seventeen is too many,” he said. “But in this environment, you’re gonna turn the ball over.” … Both teams finished with 34 rebounds, 10 steals and two blocks.
UTEP: The Miners historically have not done well against ranked teams. They’ve lost 21 of their past 22 games against ranked foes. Their last win over a ranked team came in 2010 against No. 25 UAB.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Arizona shot just 15 for 26 (57 percent) from the free-throw line. UTEP had a worse percentage at 8 for 18 (44 percent). Miller said the Wildcats, who were in the double-bonus for much of the second half, can’t afford to keep making 1 of 2 shots from the line. However, the Wildcats kept up their strong 3-point shooting, going 5 for 11 (45 percent).
SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES
Arizona and UTEP used to play each other regularly when both were members of the WAC from 1969-78. However, Friday’s game was only the fourth between the teams in the past 20 seasons. Arizona leads the all-time series 61-30.
UTEP sold out Friday night’s game — the team’s first sellout since Nov. 12, 2010.
Arizona: At UNLV on Tuesday.
UTEP: Hosts Alcorn State on Sunday.
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