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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Johnson’s big day puts stop to slump

Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

Nick Johnson has endured a season typical of most college freshmen — one filled with peaks, valleys and inconsistency.

Johnson seemed poised for one of those lows on Saturday against Utah after he missed five of his first six shots. But with Arizona down 51-49 and 8:33 on the clock, Johnson took over.

The freshman guard stole the ball along the right sideline, spun right to left on a defender and finished at the rim to tie the game up at 51.

After a layup by Solomon Hill, Johnson scored five straight points to answer a Utah run and keep the Wildcats within one. Johnson wasn’t done.

With the game knotted up at 61 and 1:24 remaining, Johnson drilled a 3-pointer that gave Arizona a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. In crunch time, with the Wildcats needing offense, Johnson delivered and finished with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“Today was his best game at Arizona, especially the second half and we’re really, really proud,” UA head coach Sean Miller said. “He’s a really important part of our team. We needed him in a big way today and he stepped up and delivered.”

Johnson’s 18 points were his most since scoring 19 on Oregon State on Jan. 12. Despite those high-scoring affairs, Johnson has had quite a few games in which he’s struggled this year.

He’s scored five points or fewer in five games this season while also struggling from the free throw line at times. But Johnson bucked that inconsistent trend Saturday while drilling all five of his free throws.

“Nick’s had his ups and downs this season and the main thing with him was to just keep his confidence,” said senior guard Kyle Fogg. “I think when he’s playing great other guys feed off of him, myself included. I think we’re at our best as a team when he’s playing great.”

Johnson didn’t take any credit on Saturday, however. Instead, he attributed his success to Fogg and Brendon Lavender, who got the Wildcats back in the game.

“When I see them make shots, it just propels me and I want to make shots,” Johnson said. “They were feeling good today.”

Lavender sparked Arizona’s comeback with a triple that cut Utah’s 10-point lead to seven. Fogg hit a three on the next possession and Arizona was off to the races.

Lavender tied the game up at 43 with a 3-pointer and gave Arizona a 46-43 lead with his third triple of the game. The senior did it again with 4:16 remaining, tying the game up at 61, setting the stage for Johnson’s go-ahead three.
“He put us on his back and made shots when we were down big,” Miller said of Lavender.

No shots for Turner

Freshman point guard Josiah Turner did not attempt a shot for the first time all season in Saturday’s game. But while he finished with only one point, Turner dished out seven assists and committed zero turnovers for the first time since Arizona beat NAU on Dec. 3, 2011.

“Seven assists and no turnovers was great,” Miller said. “We like that.”

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