In almost every way, the long-awaited Arizona-Florida Top 10 showdown met expectations.
Except that the lower-ranked team won.
Eighth-ranked Arizona pulled off a wild 65-64 victory over the fifth-ranked Gators before a sold-out McKale Center crowd with late flurries that finished off both halves.
Two late Florida turnovers and a missed free throw by Kenny Boynton led to the Wildcats' game-winner, a driving layup from Mark Lyons with 7 seconds left.
Lyons said he took advantage of a mismatch to drive for the basket, and never hesitated.
"I've been a confident guy since I stepped in the door," Lyons said.
Lyons finished with 14 points and was named the MVP of what was designated as the Fiesta Bowl Classic game, while senior forward Solomon Hill had 18 points and keyed the second-half comeback after a difficult first half.
Nick Johnson also added 15 points and three assists for Arizona while Florida was led by forward Erik Murphy, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
The win moved Arizona to 8-0, having split the two-year series with Florida, which won in overtime last season in Gainesville, Fla.
It was Arizona's first win against a nationally ranked team since it knocked off Duke in the 2011 NCAA tournament Sweet 16, and its first win over a Top 5 team since upsetting Gonzaga 69-64 during the 2008-09 season.
The Wildcats will now host Oral Roberts on Tuesday before heading to the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu next week. The fifth-ranked Gators dropped to 7-1.
The Wildcats and Gators put on a well-played game worthy of a Top 10 matchup, with McKale Center's first sellout crowd of the season on its feet for much of the game. Arizona struggled at times from the three-point arc, missing six of its first seven three-pointers, and inside before turnovers ultimately did in the Gators.
"Obviously, a great, great game," UA coach Sean Miller said. "You have to have players step up in big moments and make the shots and we had them."
The Wildcats cut the Gators' lead to 61-58 with five minutes left. Florida's Scottie Wilbekin hit a rim-rattling three-pointer with 2:35 left and Kevin Parrom hit two free throws to make it 64-60 before a final flurry of Florida turnovers put the game up in the air.
"We just put them in tough situations," Hill said. "I don't think they were playing for us to press. We just stayed with it."
With 56 seconds left, Mike Rosario fed an inbounds pass to Wilbekin that rolled out of bounds, leading to a driving layup from Hill that cut Florida's lead to 64-62. Another Florida turnover, this time from Boynton, with 39 seconds left led to another Hill drive to the basket - but Hill passed to Grant Jerrett, who was fouled.
"I saw (Florida's) Patric Young leave his feet, and Grant was in position to get to the basket," Hill said of his decision to pass. "He put himself in good position, and I wanted to get him going."
Jerrett then hit 1 of 2 free throws to move the Wildcats within 64-63 - "I told him he's gotta hit both," Hill said - and after Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Wildcats received the game-winner from Lyons.
The Wildcats had struggled inside, with Brandon Ashley scoreless and Kaleb Tarczewski and Jerrett getting four points each. Tarczewski fouled out with 5:27 to go, struggling to deal with Young, the chiseled Florida center who had eight points.
But the biggest problem inside for the Wildcats was power forward Erik Murphy, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
Still, with five minutes left, the Wildcats cut Florida's lead to 61-58 thanks to three-pointers from Johnson and Lyons.
The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run midway through the second half to cut Florida's lead to 54-50 with 8:22 left. While Boynton quickly answered with a three-pointer, Hill drove inside for a layup on UA's next possession.
Arizona trailed by just three at halftime but could not cut it any further early in the second half. Murphy and Hill traded three-pointers early and Florida took a 39-32 lead after two layups.
The Wildcats fell behind by 10 when Will Yegete scored inside with 12 minutes left, when Arizona still had not received a single second-half point from its four big men. Rosario then hit a three-pointer from the corner to put Florida up 54-43 before the Wildcats rallied again.
A frantic late first half rally helped Arizona cut Florida's lead to just 32-29 at halftime.
The Gators led 30-19 with four minutes left when Murphy hit a three-pointer but the Wildcats surrendered only a basket from center Young the rest of the way while their offense finally took off.
Arizona only made one of its first seven three-pointers but Johnson hit one with 1:21 let to make it 32-24, then came back for another on UA's next possession, making it 32-27.
As the crowd roared, Wilbekin missed a layup in the final minute and Arizona also had an unexpected chance at the basket after Boynton lost the ball near midcourt.
Hill picked up the ball and raced downcourt for a dunk with a second left to cut UA's halftime deficit to three.
Johnson led the Wildcats in first-half scoring with eight points while Lyons had seven. Murphy led Florida with 10 points and three rebounds.
The Wildcats cut it to 18-15 on a layup by Lyons but never came any closer in the first half. Murphy tipped one in to give Florida a 20-15 with 6:54 and the Gators went on a 9-2 run.
Florida led 30-19 by the time Murphy made a three-pointer with four minutes left in the half.
The Wildcats started out effectively, scoring on their first three possessions and taking a 7-5 early lead. But they then had two turnovers while allowing a three- pointer by Rosario that gave Florida an 8-7 lead and the Wildcats never led again in the half.
Coincidentally, the comeback win came on the same day that the UA football team made a furious comeback to beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.
"It was a great day for Arizona sports," Hill said. "Both teams looked ugly for a moment, but we kept fighting."
• What: Oral Roberts at Arizona
• When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
• TV: Pac-12 Arizona
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)