LOS ANGELES - Nick Johnson's first college slump always loomed, as irking as it was inevitable.
Few, if any, freshmen can weave through growing pains like practice cones.
Johnson, praised since the first day of practice for his maturity, wasn't exempt.
"I'm not anything special, that I wouldn't go through it," he said. "I knew it was going to come. It's just getting through it now."
The Arizona Wildcats' first Pac-12 road trip - which concluded Sunday with a 57-46 win at USC's Galen Center - seemed a likely location.
"That's the process," UA coach Sean Miller said. "It's never, ever, easy leaving high school and entering college. For every player like Kevin Durant - you look at how great he is now - there are a lot of players that are very good. And they have to learn and get through it. Nick is, right now.
"I don't mean that in a negative light at all. He'll be better and better and better because his heart is in the right place.
"And he's going to work hard and learn from this trip."
His seven rebounds Sunday were offset by five personal fouls. Against a physical USC team, Johnson made one highlight reel dunk and a first-half jumper, finishing with four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
In two games in Southern California, Johnson went 3 for 15 from the field and 0 for 6 from three-point range.
He scored six points and committed four turnovers in a combined 55 minutes.
"My shot isn't falling," he said. "I don't know if that's due to (tired) legs or anything like that. It's just something I have to deal with."
"He's one of many guys right now that's obviously a much better shooter than he's shooting," Miller said. "That will come around."
Johnson said the longer college season has not worn him down.
To Miller, the physicality of the college game is affecting the 6-foot-2, 198-pound guard.
Miller said "jumping up over people isn't as easy as it once was, no matter how talented you are," because of beefy defenders. On defense, dodging sizable screeners is "much, much different" than in high school.
"There's some getting used to, there's some trial and error," Miller said. "You have to learn. It's more sophisticated than, 'I got my man. You got your man.'"
In his past five games, Johnson has eclipsed seven points only once, when he hung 14 points on Arizona State on New Year's Eve.
During that stretch, he made only 12 of 37 shots, for a percentage of 32.4.
"It's just something I'm going to have to get through," said Johnson, who turned 19 in December. "I'm going through my little growing pains. A lot of freshmen go through them. That's something I have to expect."
Senior guard Kyle Fogg remembers what it was like to play his first conference road games.
"It's a lot harder," he said. "You play away games in the preseason, but in conference play it's hard to go on the road and play well.
"Every freshman has a couple tough games. But I'm sure he's going to bounce back. He's important for our team."
Fogg has told the Gilbert native to keep shooting.
"I think he shied away with being aggressive a little bit this weekend," Fogg said. "I'm definitely going to talk to him right now, and make sure he realizes that he's one of the best players on our team.
"We're going to need him coming up. No matter what happens - if you're 0 for 100, just keep playing."
Forward Solomon Hill said he went through his own struggles last season, and that he would tell Johnson, "from this perspective, you gotta grow up" as a player.
"The offense is going to be there," Hill said. "He's going to have his cold nights, he's going to have his hot nights. But he just has to stay in the game."
Johnson was happy to return to Tucson with knowledge from two more Pac-12 teams, and with the hope his slump will pass before he sees them again.
"So when they come to our house," he said, "it'll be a little bit different."