UTEP-Arizona Preview

The Associated Press

Arizona coach Sean Miller brought in a talented recruiting class, but he leaned heavily on his experienced players in the season opener.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd knows whoever is on the court for No. 12 Arizona will test his team.

Meeting for the first time in 17 years, the Wildcats and Miners will play for the 90th time on Thursday night in Tucson.

Expectations are high this season as freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley have added much-needed depth to Arizona's frontcourt. Tarczewski and Jerrett started and combined for seven points and seven rebounds in Sunday's 82-73 season-opening win over Charleston Southern, while Ashley finished with 12 points and a team-best eight rebounds off the bench.

Miller, though, had to move senior Solomon Hill to power forward during stretches as the young Wildcat frontcourt struggled.

Hill finished with 14 points and five boards.

Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, a senior guard, scored a team-high 17 while sophomore guard Nick Johnson added 12 points. Both had six assists as Arizona totaled 25 on 27 field goals.

"In a game like tonight, especially our season opener, you rely on your veterans,'' Miller said.

Floyd feels good about the Miners' effort in Friday's 69-49 season-opening win over Oral Roberts, but he's definitely not getting too overconfident as his team plays outside of El Paso for the first time this season.

UTEP has dropped 16 of 17 on the road to ranked teams since the start of 1996-97.

"I have great respect for (Arizona's) coach and players, one of whom I recruited very heavily at USC in Solomon Hill," Floyd told UTEP's official website. "I know that the atmosphere will resemble what we see in our league (Conference USA) at Memphis. Every person on the floor for us will be challenged at his position by one of the better talents in the country."

The Miners, though, also have good depth up front, led by junior center John Bohannon, who scored 17 points and grabbed four rebounds on Friday. Julian Washburn finished with 11 and his brother, Chris, added 14 off the bench to become the first Miner freshman since Stefon Jackson in 2005 to reach double-figure scoring in a season opener.

Julian and Chris Washburn each had three of UTEP's 11 steals. The Miners scored 22 points off turnovers to match their best mark from last season.

Arizona, though, also had just eight turnovers in its opener. Lyons did not commit a single turnover in 30 minutes, and he scored 15 second-half points after missing all three of his shots in the opening 20 minutes.

"It was tough for me at first,'' he said, "but I've been there, I've done it, so I just had to bounce back. My teammates, they picked me up, told me everything was OK and I kept playing.''

This will be the first time these teams play since Arizona won 90-70 in Tucson on Dec. 16, 1995.

The Wildcats lead this series 59-30.