LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Arizona Wildcats still haven't fixed their slow starts but they shot themselves out of it in an 83-76 win over New Mexico State at the Pan American Center.
Arizona (5-2) made 9 of 21 shots from three-point range and shot 51.7 percent overall while snapping a two-game losing streak. NMSU, which shot just 38 percent overall, dropped to 5-2.
UA coach Sean Miller began the game for the first time this season with a smaller lineup featuring Jesse Perry at center and Nick Johnson at shooting guard, while Jordin Mayes and Kyle Fogg also played on the perimeter.
But the Wildcats started slowly in both halves, trailing 10-2 in the first half and letting NMSU score the first six points after halftime, when UA had taken a 44-40 lead.
While Mayes started the game at point guard, freshman Josiah Turner had a second straight strong game off the bench. Turner had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and two turnovers, recording his season-highs in points and rebounds.
Turner had 10 points against San Diego State.
Johnson responded to the start by scoring a season-high 19 points. His previous season high was 14 against Valparaiso. UA leads 72-64.
Turner hit two free throws with 7:30 left to give UA its first double-digit lead, 70-60. But the Wildcats nearly gave the game away in the final minutes, with a string of turnovers that turned into a scoring drought of three and a half minutes.
UA led just 79-76 entering the final minute but survived in part thanks to some fortunate breaks. NMSU touched a loose ball from Nick Johnson that went out of bounds, giving UA another shot at the basket, and after Kyle Fogg missed a free throw, UA rebounded and Jordin Mayes was fouled.
Mayes then hit two free throws with 21 seconds left to give UA an 81-76 lead and Jesse Perry hit two more with 11 seconds left.
Perry finished the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Solomon Hill picked up fourth foul with 12:07 left but stayed in the game until the end. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
In the first half, Arizona fired in 6 of 13 three-pointers to compensate for another slow start and take a 44-40 halftime lead.
The Wildcats started a smaller lineup featuring Jesse Perry at center and Nick Johnson at shooting guard, for the first time this season, but still stumbled to a 10-2 deficit before a crowd of about 7,000 fans at the Pan American Center.
However, NMSU's porous defense allowed the Wildcats to shoot 60 percent overall from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range. Johnson led UA in scoring with nine points.
It was the most prolific long-range shooting Arizona had in a half since they made 9 of 17 in the first half of an 81-72 win over St. John's on Nov. 17.
But, as expected, the Aggies made their mark on the boards. They outrebounded UA 21-15 in the first half and collected 10 offensive rebounds, giving them six more shot attempts while keeping the game close throughout the half.
Wendell McKines led NMSU in scoring with 13 points.
Forward Solomon Hill had eight points, four rebounds and three assists for Arizona in the first half but picked up his third foul with 2:48 left in the first half. UA was leading 38-33 at that point.
Earlier in the half, two Kyryl Natyazhko jumpers gave UA a 29-22 lead and a three from Jordin Mayes made it 27-19.
After UA trailed early, a Nick Johnson fast-break layup tied the game at 12 after just over four minutes. UA had trailed 10-2, prompting coach Sean Miller to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game.
Before the game was underway, in Washington, D.C., 2013 UA recruiting target Nate Britt announced he has chosen North Carolina over the Wildcats and several other schools. Britt's father, also named Nate, is the coach of the D.C. Assault summer-league team and has a close relationship with Sean Miller.