Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Arizona Wildcats close out a brief two-game road trip on Tuesday, as they take on the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in a non-conference clash at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Sean Miller's Wildcats will try to wrap up their non-conference slate perfect, as they have opened the 2014-15 campaign with 12 straight victories thus far. Arizona played its first true road game of the season last Friday and edged out UTEP, 60-55 to remain unbeaten.
Dave Rice's Rebels are in the midst of their toughest slate of games in school history, as they will have taken on three top-15 teams in a 16-day period. The set opened on Saturday with a 59-46 loss to No. 14 Utah and will conclude with a Jan. 4 showdown with now No. 10 Kansas in Lawrence. The loss to the Utes this past weekend dropped the Rebels to 7-3 on the season, but the team is a perfect 5-0 at home thus far.
UNLV holds an 11-7 lead in the all-time series with Arizona, but Arizona claimed victory in last year's clash , 63-58.
The Miners stayed within striking distance for much of the game, the Wildcats were able to distance themselves down the stretch and escape El Paso with their flawless record intact. Freshman Stanley Johnson was once again instrumental in the victory, netting a team-high 17 points. Gabe York added 13 points and Brandon Ashley tacked on 10 for Arizona, which shot a decent .455 from the floor and forced UTEP into 18 turnovers.
The Wildcats were subdued offensively by the Miners, but that hasn't been the norm this season. In fact, the team has excelled at both ends of the court, averaging 77.1 ppg, while holding foes to just 59.4. The team also holds positive rebounding (+8.3) and turnover (+2.7) margins. The 6-foot-7 Johnson has made an immediate impact in Tucson, as he is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and averages a team-best 14.7 ppg. He is also second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 rpg. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is next in the scoring column at 11.9 ppg and is tops on the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg), despite coming off the bench exclusively. Ashley rounds out the double-digit averages with his 11.6 ppg, although York (9.8 ppg) isn't far off the mark.
In the Rebels' first-ever game on the Las Vegas Strip (MGM Grand), they gave the Utes all they could handle in the first half, as they trailed Utah by just a single point at the break (24-23). However, the Utes caught fire over the final 20 minutes of action, shooting .500 from the floor, while UNLV floundered with a .296 showing in the second stanza. Rashad Vaughn was the only Rebel to notch double digits, netting 16 points. Christian Wood added eight points and 13 rebounds in the losing effort.
The 46 points against Utah were a season low for UNLV, which comes into this contest averaging 67.5 ppg on .439 shooting. The defensive effort however, has been much more consistent, with the Rebels allowing just 63.7 ppg and holding foes well under 40 percent efficiency from the floor (.369). Vaughn leads the team in scoring at a solid 17.3 ppg. Wood is the only other reliable contributor on the roster, averaging a near double-double with 12.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. The 6-11 sophomore is a difference maker above the rim, averaging just over three blocks per game.