Wildcats leave Las Cruces with a 83-76 win

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Solomon Hill #44 of the Arizona Wildcats battles for a rebound against Deville Smith #33 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches Vs Cancer at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats' game against New Mexico State on Tuesday was a blend of success for Sean Miller's crew.

The veterans played their gritty best, two freshmen gave their best performances of the season and Arizona went on another second-half run to put enough of a buffer between themselves and the Aggies to end a two-game losing streak, winning 83-76 in Las Cruces, N.M.

Guard Nick Johnson dropped 19 points -- most of which came from 3-point shots or dunks -- on an efficient 8-for-14 from the field, and Jesse Perry tabbed a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

But the catalysts for Arizona were Solomon Hill and Josiah Turner.

Hill did it all. He only took eight shots, but scored 12 and grabbed five rebounds. The seven assists, though, were the Wildcats' motor, as he seemingly always made the right play -- a bounce pass for a dunk from Perry here, and a drive and kick to Johnson for a 3-pointer there were the playmaking Arizona needs to succeed from here on out.

And Turner did the same.

He produced the team's only three steals, and finished with 12 points, three assists and six rebounds to give UA easy scores in transition. His penetration got him to the line, where the Wildcats kept pace with the physical Aggies.

There's still plenty of problems, however.

Arizona gave up 18 offensive rebounds to a larger Aggie team, and the Wildcats started a small lineup of Jordin Mayes, Johnson, Kyle Fogg, Hill and Perry. That gave NMSU 15 more shot attempts and that's how they kept it close despite shooting 38 percent to UA's 52 percent.

The Wildcats got out of the gates early again and trailed 10-2 early. They came back quickly and led 44-40 at halftime in a back-and-forth affair.

And the Wildcats used this season's patented late second-half run to open up a 70-60 lead with 7:33 to play. But an eight-point lead with three minutes to play disappeared, and Arizona only led 79-76 with 29 seconds left as turnovers threatened their win.

But the Wildcats clamped down and hit their free throws to close it out.

Why they won:

  • Arizona shot 43 percent of its 3s, hitting 9-of-21 shots beyond the arc.
  • NMSU led the country in drawing fouls coming into Tuesday's game, but Arizona took just four fewer free throws than the Aggies. UA hit 14-of-19 and NMSU hit on 16-of-23.
  • The veteran Aggies only turned the ball over nine times, but Arizona countered by only giving it up 11 times on their end. That helped prevent NMSU from getting even more second-chance shots.
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