LOS ANGELES — Through the Jan. 31 evening he helped keep Washington gunner C.J. Wilcox to just 4-for-16 shooting, Nick Johnson’s presence for the Arizona Wildcats was undeniable.
The UA sophomore guard scored often with his uniquely athletic flair, averaging 13.4 points a game while shooting 46.7 percent from the field to that point.
He played a quasi-point guard role along Mark Lyons, who like Johnson is also something of a combo guard, averaging 2.7 assists per game through January. He was often assigned an opponent’s top perimeter scorer on defense, and averaged a team-high 2.3 steals per game.
February was a different story. Johnson contracted an illness early in the month, and struggled on both sides of the ball afterward. He scored in double figures only once in February, while opposing perimeter players often succeeded against him on defense.
But Saturday, in UA’s 74-69 loss at UCLA, Johnson had 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting. He also helped minimize the UCLA perimeter attack of Shabazz Muhammad (6-for-15 shooting) and Jordan Adams (1 of 5). It was the 6-foot-9-inch Kyle Anderson who caused UA the most trouble with 17 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
Johnson’s effort came after he was just 1 for 9 in Wednesday’s loss at USC, where the Trojans’ three perimeter starters totaled 44 points.
“He was in a better place here (at UCLA) than he would have been at USC,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Nick is a heck of a player. For a long period of time this season, he was arguably our best player, certainly one of them. You can’t play that well for that long and all of a sudden lose it.”
Read more in Monday's Arizona Daily Star.