With an Elite Eight NCAA tournament appearance last season and their emotional Red-Blue Game last weekend all behind them, the Arizona Wildcats came down to Earth on Thursday.
With a thud.
The Wildcats were shocked in a 69-68 loss to Division II Seattle Pacific, allowing the Falcons to shoot 53 percent from the field while turning the ball over 12 times.
It was their first loss in an exhibition game since the 1983-84 season, Lute Olson's first at Arizona, when the Wildcats lost to Athletes in Action.
The Falcons, 20-10 last season, have a history against Division I opponents. They won two road exhibition games against Division I teams last season: Nevada (84-81) and Eastern Washington (87-82), and have played four Pac-10 teams over the past four seasons.
Arizona appeared to have only about 12,000 fans at McKale Center, after the Red-Blue Game and its ceremonies drew over 14,000 last Saturday.
Arizona led early but trailed for most of both halves until Nick Johnson hit a three-pointer with 3:53 remaining to give the Wildcats a 63-61 lead, after a strong defensive effort led to a traveling call against SPU's Andy Poling.
But Seattle Pacific beat UA with a backdoor basket and took advantage of Kyryl Natyazhko's thrown-away pass to take a 69-65 lead into the final minute.
While UA had a chance to win the game after a late turnover by SPU, a final three-point try by Nick Johnson came up short.
With 15 minutes left and Seattle Pacific leading by 13 points, the McKale Center crowd of about 12,000 stood on its feet. The Wildcats slowly responded.
Nick Johnson scored twice in a row to cut the deficit to 46-37 with 13:43 to go, then later hit a three-pointer to make it 51-42, , answering a three from SPU's Jeff Dorman. By then, the Falcons had cooled to 6 of 15 shooting in the second half.
Threes from Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill cut SPU's lead to 57-51 with eight minutes left.
In the first half, Seattle Pacific took 37-29, shooting 58.3 percent from the field. Jobi Wall had 17 points and hit 3 of 5 three-pointers for the Falcons while Solomon Hill led UA with eight points.
UA coach Sean Miller opted to start freshman Josiah Turner at point guard while going with Kyryl Natyazhko at center. He said on Tuesday he was uncertain who would start at center and point guard.
Sophomore Jordin Mayes has been competing with Turner at point guard while freshman Sidiki Johnson has been at center along with Natyazhko in practices.
Turner started off on a good note, firing an over-the-shoulder bullet form the wing to Kyryl Natyazhko inside.
But after UA led for the first six minutes, the Falcons edged ahead with the help of their three-point shooting.
Seattle Pacific went up 19-15 with 7:55 left and led 34-22 with 1:21 left in the half before Nick Johnson converted a three-point play with 23 seconds left that cut UA's deficit into single digits.
All 10 healthy UA scholarship players were used heavily in the first half. Mayes, guard Nick Johnson and center Sidiki Johnson entered the game after the first media timeout, while Brendon Lavender and Angelo Chol checked in at 14:05.