Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona coach Sean Miller likens the top-ranked Wildcats’ size and power to a running team in football: The longer an opponent plays against it, the more it wears down.
The Washington Huskies found out just what he means.
Nick Johnson scored 24 points, Aaron Gordon had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Arizona pulled away late for a 71-62 victory Saturday.
“Sometimes the story line is a little different at halftime than it is at the end of the game because you can kind of wear that opponent down and the carries that go for 2 or 3 yards in the first half break wide open in the second,” Miller said. “You just have to stay with it.”
The Wildcats did and are off to their best start since the 1931-32 team opened with a school-record 16 straight wins.
It wasn’t easy.
One of the best rebounding teams in the country, Arizona (15-0, Pac-12) had a hard time keeping the Huskies off the glass or from scoring inside in a tight first half.
The Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, particularly on the perimeter, to stretch the lead in the final 3 minutes.
Arizona had 10 dunks among its 24 field goals and hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 2 minutes.
T.J. McConnell overcame a poor-shooting game with six assists, five rebounds and four steals while teaming with Johnson to hound the Huskies at the top of Arizona’s defense.
“That’s what good teams do, nettle through adversity,” said Johnson, who hit all six of his free throws in the closing minutes. “They are a good team. Their record may not show it, but they are good. We knew that going into the game. We made our run and made our shots when it counted.”
The Huskies didn’t.
Washington (9-6, 1-1) kept up with the bigger Wildcats well into the second half behind good shooting and strong inside play.
The Huskies went cold down the stretch, though, shooting 10 of 33 in the second half while missing all seven of their 3-point attempts.
C.J. Wilcox led Washington with 20 points. Perris Blackwell had 12 points and 12 rebounds and knocked around Kaleb Tarczewski inside, helping to hold Arizona’s center to 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“When they took the lead, I feel that we got away from the things we were trying to do defensively and offensively,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.