Mark Lyons, Caleb Tarczewski and Solomon Hill each chipped in 10 apiece for Arizona, who improved to 6-2 in conference and 18-2 overall.
"Coming in here, we knew that Coach Miller had never won here," Johnson said. "They have a great atmosphere, a great team. They’re always a tough, physical team. Coach challenged us at half time to go out there, play together and play hard, and that’s what we did. It wasn’t pretty at all, but we battled again and pulled it out."
Washington (12-9, 4-4) was led by the 11 points of Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox. Abdul Gaddy and Aziz N'diaye scored 10 each for the Huskies.
"Probably the most physical game we’ve played all year," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "Lots of contact - neither team backed off from the other. Arizona did a great job defending us, we did a great job of defending them.
"The difference in the game was they scored twenty points off of our turnovers, we scored 10 off of ours and we had the same number of turnovers, 17. We had more turnovers that were of the touchdown type, where there is no defense for it. They got out and they were able to get easy baskets and we also didn’t shoot foul shots as well. In a close game like that when you combine those two that’s the difference in the game. Very hard fought game. Our guys definitely came ready to play."
Being Dawg Pack Appreciation Night, the students came fired up to support the Huskies and the team fed off the energy of the arena, jumping out to a quick 16-5 lead with 12:52 remaining in the first half after a Wilcox jumper.
"Even though we were up 16-5…we jumped on them," Gaddy said. "That’s all we knew. We was like, “oh, we hit them with the first punch,” but we knew they were coming."
And the 'Cats did just that. They clawed their way back and eventually took a 21-20 lead with 4:35 to go to half after Johnson's first made jumper of the night. Washington finished on an 8-2 run to take a 28-23 halftime lead.
"We were so fortunate to be down five points," said Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller. "And the reason why we were only down five points was because of our defense. And it was hard for them to score. We played the entire second half with only five turnovers and although it wasn't pretty, between Solomon (Hill) and Mark (Lyons) they went a combined 0-for-8 from the three, and that's never good for our team, but we were better. And our defense remained the same.
A turning point in the game was with 13:53 left in the game when Wilcox was saddled with his fourth foul. "I got caught up in the game, saw a guy going for a dunk so I made a play on it," Wilcox said after the game.
Arizona went on a six-point run to take a three-point advantage and even stretched it to five on a couple of occasions. Both teams were turning the ball over, but Arizona appeared unafraid to draw contact and aggressively attack the rim, while Washington acted tentatively on many transition opportunities, unsure of whether they should attack or wait to run their half-court offense.
"I don’t think we made very good decisions; that had something to do with the turnovers," Romar said. "We were just too negligent too many times. It hurt us, it cost us the game."
The Huskies battled back, and down two with 41 seconds left looked to Wilcox for an equalizer. They found a back screen near the right elbow - a perfect situation for an alley-oop pass - but the pass from Gaddy went wayward and all Wilcox could do was try an tap it to N'Diaye to retain possession.
The senior center wasn't able to keep it out of the hands of Johnson, whose two free throws spelled the final margin of victory.
"It was just meant to isolate C.J.," Gaddy said of the lob play that was called. "I didn’t see anybody helping at the rim. I should have just made a better pass. If I would have made a better pass he’d have had a layup. We just had to execute down the stretch."
"It was behind the backboard too much," Wilcox said of the pass. "I just tried to save it and ended up turning the ball over."
Washington had a three-point attempt by N'Diaye with less than 10 seconds left, the first of his career, fail to draw iron and UA's Mark Lyons was able to race to their end of the floor and extinguish the remainder of the clock.
"I honestly didn’t even know Aziz was in the game," Gaddy said. "I thought somebody else had subbed in. The play was for C.J. but I knew that two dudes was going to run to him, so when I passed in the corner I was like, “Why is Aziz in the game?” But that’s just how…it happened."
"That was not the play that was called," added Romar.
The Huskies have only one day to turn around and play their next game, the first time that has happened in conference play to date. They host the Arizona State Sun Devils at 6 pm Saturday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
"We have a short memory, tomorrow is a new day and we won’t focus on our mistakes," N'Diaye said.
Points: Suggs 11, Wilcox 11, N'Diaye 10, Gaddy 10, Kemp 7, Andrews 2, Simmons 2
Rebounds: N'Diaye 11, TEAM 9, Gaddy 4, Wilcox 4, Simmons 3, Andrews 2, Kemp 1, Suggs 1
Assists: Gaddy 6, Andrews 3, Wilcox 1
Steals: Gaddy 3, Wilcox 2
Blocks: N'Diaye 3, Kemp 1, Gaddy 1, Suggs 1, Wilcox 1, Simmons 1