For the second straight season, the Arizona Wildcats have run the table in nonconference play.
Nick Johnson scored 20 points while No. 1 Arizona beat NAU 77-44 to finish its nonconference season at 13-0. They will now break for three days before returning Friday to begin preparation for their Pac-12 opener on Jan. 2 against Washington State at McKale Center.
The Wildcats went 12-0 in nonconference play last season but were able to play another game this season because they participated in the four-game NIT Season Tip-Off. They went to 14-0 last season before losing at Oregon in their third Pac-12 game.
Up by 24 points at halftime tonight, the Wildcats were scoreless for nearly three minutes at the start of the second half but quickly warmed up after Brandon Ashley stole the ball and Nick Johnson slammed down a one-handed dunk with 16:05 left, making it 47-24.
On UA’s next possession, Johnson fired it to a cutting Aaron Gordon who dunked and drew a foul.
NAU’s 6-7, 276-pound Aku Kaluna hit his first three-pointer in 13 tries this season with 13:20 left but the Wildcats led 52-30 at that point and coasted the rest of the way.
UA coach Sean Miller played his scholarship reserves heavily in both halves and began playing walk-ons with 2:17 to go. Miller used all his scholarship players except Tarczewski and forward Zach Peters.
In the first half, Arizona took a 41-17 halftime lead after starting slowly.
UA held NAU to just one field goal over a nine-minute span late in the first half while Johnson led the Wildcats in first-half scoring with 14 points.
Arizona shot 50 percent from the field while outrebounding the Lumberjacks 15-12. NAU also committed 12 first-half turnovers, leading to 18 UA points, while the Wildcats had only two turnovers.
Arizona was playing for the second straight game without center Kaleb Tarczewski, who sprained his foot on Dec. 14 at Michigan. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started in his place again.
Arizona and NAU were tied at 11 eight minutes into the game with the Wildcats having made just 4 of 12 field goals at that point.
But Johnson hit two straight three-pointers to put UA up 17-11 with 10:57 left and Jordin Mayes later made a pair of free throws that gave the Wildcats a 21-13 lead with 9:46 left.
It was the first time Mayes had scored since the Wildcats’ second game of the season, on Nov. 11 against Long Beach State. Mayes finished with five points, two rebounds and two assists.