El Paso, TX – Arizona faced some adversity in its first true road of the year against UTEP, but the Wildcats prevailed in a 60-55 victory. Freshman Stanley Johnson led the way with 17 points in the win.
The Wildcats started strong, opening with a 15-2 run, but UTEP battled back. The Miners responded with a 19-6 run of their own to tie the game at 21, but Arizona eventually took a 28-25 lead into the half.
UTEP took its first lead of the game with 12:46 left when Vince Hunter’s layup gave the Miners a 40-38 advantage. Arizona eventually reclaimed the lead and extended it to 10 points with 3:31 remaining, but the Miners never went away. UTEP cut the lead to as little as four, but Arizona held on and remained undefeated.
Johnson scored 17 points while shooting 4-of-10 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three-point range. He showed his deep shooting ability while adding six rebounds and four steals. The 6-foot-7 wing did commit four turnovers, but it was a good showing overall for the freshman.
Point guard T.J. McConnell finished with a stat-stuffing nine points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and three steals on 4-of-8 shooting. The senior has been the experienced leader all year and continued his strong play on Friday. Gabe York added 13 points while Brandon Ashley scored 10.
Sophomore Vince Hunter was exceptional for UTEP, but only saw 28 minutes of floor time before fouling out. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. The 6-foot-8 forward has a wiry frame but is an exceptional athlete that can attack off the bounce. He was a crafty finisher at the rim and used his quickness to blow by bigger defenders. Hunter looks like a draft sleeper, but can still develop a perimeter game to boost his stock.
Freshman point guard Omega Harris was also impressive with 10 points, four rebounds, and four steals off the bench. He made 4-of-11 shots including 2-of-3 three-point attempts. As a quick 6-foot-2 freshman with a good handle, Harris should be one to follow.
Arizona, now 12-0, had a good road test before facing UNLV in Vegas on Tuesday. It will be the final non-conference game for the Wildcats before starting Pac-12 play. UTEP fell to 6-4 and will play Alcorn State on Sunday.
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