FINAL: Seattle Pacific 69, Arizona 68
Arizona Wildcats drop exhibition opener to Division II Falcons
After jumping out to a 13-11 lead with 13:39 left in the first half, the Arizona basketball team only led twice the rest of the game and fell to Division II opponent Seattle Pacific University 69-68 in UA’s first exhibition defeat since the 1983-84 season.
A Nick Johnson three-pointer at the buzzer fell short and the Wildcats couldn’t escape defeat. Arizona missed two big free throws down the stretch and was unable to stop the Falcons, who turned a 65-63 deficit with 3:30 remaining into a 67-65 lead 1:10 later. SPU didn’t look back from there.
After trailing by as many as 13 points, Arizona battled back to take its first lead of the second half as Nick Johnson drilled a three to make it 63-61 with 3:57 on the clock. SPU regained the lead on a layup with 2:13 that put it ahead 67-65. UA turned it over on its next possession on an errant pass by center Kyryl Natyazhko.
Arizona freshman point guard Josiah Turner was then back-cut by SPU point guard David Downs on the Falcons’ next possession to stretch their lead to 69-65 with 1:22 remaining.
After a Jordin Mayes missed jumper, Jesse Perry drew a loose ball foul but missed the front end of the one-and-one. Arizona junior forward Solomon HIll missed one of two on the Wildcats’ next possession and the Wildcats trailed 69-66.
Johnson made a layup with 7.1 seconds and Hill stole a Falcons’ pass with 4.0 seconds remaining but Johnson missed a triple at the buzzer and Arizona fell short.
Despite the late surge, the Wildcats won’t compete against Pac-12 schools playing like they did against the Falcons. They committed 12 turnovers, nine in the firs half, and allowed 10 offensive rebounds as they were out-rebounded 29-20, by a smaller SPU team.
Arizona lacked interior presence between freshman Sidiki Johnson and Natyazhko as it gave up 53.1 percent shooting, while making only 48.1 percent of its own attempts. The Wildcats came out flat and couldn’t rally back to victory.
They were uninspired in the first half as they trailed 37-29 after 20 minutes of play. Seattle Pacific connected on 14 of its 24 first-half attempts (58.3 percent), most of which came in the paint.
Junior wing Jobi Wall came out on fire dropping 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting while drilling three triples. While the Falcons hit three of their first four three-pointers, they dominated the Wildcats in the paint as the half went on.
UA struggled to defend SPU’s motion offense and it led to a host of layups and uncontested floaters in the lane. Centers Kyryl Natyazhko and Sidiki Johnson couldn’t defend the paint against a much smaller SPU squad.
The Falcons also beat the wildcats in the hustle category, getting to the majority of loose balls and outrebounding the Wildcats 12-10. While they couldn’t get stops defensively, Arizona’s offense looked anemic.
The Wildcats committed nine first-half turnovers as eight different players turned it over at least once. Arizona shot a porous 9-for-23 from the field (39.1 percent) while making only one of its five three-point attempts.
Arizona starters Josiah Turner, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko jumped out to an early 6-0 lead but were outscored 37-23 for the final 17:59.
The UA offense lacked a go-to guy to make a play when the offense broke down, which led to the host of Wildcats turnovers. Hill led UA with eight points on 2-for-3 shooting at the half, but no Arizona player mad more than two field goals.
Arizona’s turnover struggles continued early in the second half as Turner turned it over on UA’s first offensive possession and the Wildcats committed two turnovers in the first 3:38.
The Wildcats committed only one turnover the rest of the game, but their rebounding proved to be inept as they gave up eight rebounds in the first 6:30 of the second half and trailed by as much as 13 with 16:04 remaining.
Arizona finally turned it on, however, cutting the deficit to nine behind seven points by Nick Johnson during a 2:42 span. Johnson finished with 15 second-half points and 18 on the game. Hill also finished with a solid 16 points but Arizona’s inability to stop the Falcons on the glass and in the paint lead to its demise.