Technically speaking, Arizona's 19-game home-court winning streak is still alive.

But if the Wildcats keep playing the way they did in a shocking 69-68 exhibition loss to Division II Seattle Pacific on Thursday, it won't be for long.

While losing their first exhibition game since 1984, when Lute Olson's second team lost to Athletes in Action 81-80, the Wildcats compiled a list of faults that, even in October, was cause for concern:

• They allowed the Falcons to shoot 53 percent.

• They were out-rebounded 29-20, with centers Kyryl Natyazhko and Sidiki Johnson collecting only one rebound apiece.

• They had nine turnovers and shot just 39 percent from the field in the first half, when the Falcons built a 37-29 lead.

The easy way to view it was that the Wildcats were simply due for a letdown. They spent the summer bathing in the aftermath of an unexpected NCAA tournament Elite Eight appearance, added four highly touted freshmen and enjoyed an electric Red-Blue Game atmosphere last weekend in front of a sold-out crowd and many former Wildcat players now in the NBA.

But coach Sean Miller said he didn't see it that way.

"I wish I could say I'm going to throw a lot of things in the locker room and our guys just didn't try," Miller said. "We're just not very good right now. We aren't. We're just not a very good team. … We're at such the beginning of even being able to play the game that tonight I wished we could have practiced five or seven or eight more times tonight. I'm sure we would have had a better chance to be successful but we didn't."

The Wildcats did have one area that might have suggested a letdown, especially inside, with their poor rebounding. Even senior forward Jesse Perry picked up only two boards.

"I can't really explain what it was," Perry said. "It was just one of those games. There's just no excuse why we didn't rebound. Every day in practice that's one of the main focuses on what we do."

Miller noted that the Wildcats had only one defensive rebound between his two centers, and said he's already thinking that freshman forward Angelo Chol might be able to help there. As it was, Miller had Perry playing center at the end of the game, when UA nearly pulled out a win despite trailing by 13 points.

"It surprised me," Perry said. "I knew eventually I'd be in that position."

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 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.

"We just made a couple of good plays, got the crowd fired up but they punched us right back," forward Solomon Hill said of the attempted comeback. "When they punch you back that quick, it sucks mentally for the team."

Miller opted to start freshman Josiah Turner at point guard while going with Natyazhko at center.

Turner started off on a good note, firing an over-the-shoulder bullet from the wing to Natyazhko inside.

But after UA led for the first six minutes, the Falcons edged ahead with the help of their three-point shooting.

The Falcons had no reason to fear a Division I opponent. They went 20-10 last season, and won two road exhibition games against two Division I teams last season: Nevada (84-81) and Eastern Washington (87-82). In addition, they have played four Pac-10 teams over the past four seasons.

In fact, they thrived on the McKale atmosphere, where a crowd of 12,075 was on its feet for much of the final 15 minutes.

"It's such a fun atmosphere," Seattle Pacific's Jobi Wall said. "It's great to come in and play in everything you see on TV. It's really fun to be a part of it."

Seattle Pacific succeeded, too, with the kind of heavy screening and passing in its offense that caught the Wildcats off guard, especially since the team did not scout or prepare for them as if they were a regular-season opponent.

"We really didn't execute like we usually do," Perry said. "This team was different because guys were just passing, cutting, setting screens and really not dribbling too much."

On StarNet: Read more about the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog

Up next

• What: Humboldt State at Arizona (exhibition)

• When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday