Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 10/28/11
TUCSON - So much for the hype. Then again, it was only an exhibition game, which was fortunate for Arizona since the result Thursday night was a 69-68 loss to visiting Division II Seattle Pacific at McKale Center. "I'd like to say (I threw) a lot of things in the locker room and our guys didn't try," Arizona coach Sean Miller said, "(but) we're just not very good right now. We aren't. We're just not a very good team right now. "We have to learn how to practice. We're at such the beginning to even be able to play the game that I wish we could have practiced five to eight more times before we played. I'm sure we would have had a better chance to be successful." Arizona was outrebounded 29-20 and got little help near the basket from its big men. And many times, Arizona looked out of sync and disjointed as it relied heavily on its four freshmen. "We don't have all the answers," Miller said. As for the hype, Solomon Hill said "people will doubt us" now, "but that's nothing new. As a team we just have to come together." Maybe this was a perfect time for Miller to have a "teaching moment" for his young and relatively inexperienced Wildcats, who are ranked No. 16 in the first USA Today coaches poll. That's how they will take it. Not that they have any real choice. "We've GOT to take it as a learning experience," said Solomon Hill, one of the team leaders who finished with 16 points. "Luckily it doesn't count against our record. We've got to watch film and as much as possible. And get everybody on the same track." It wasn't pretty. And the night was hardly as picture-perfect as Saturday's Red-Blue Scrimmage played in front of 14,000 fans. Thursday night, an announced crowd of 12,075 showed up to see Arizona struggle, rally and eventually lose to the Falcons. What's clear is LWDW Life Without Derrick Williams won't be as glamorous for Arizona, a team that was one shot short of the Final Four a year ago. And this from a team that might be picked to win the Pac-12 Conference on Friday at the annual conference media day in Los Angeles. Miller will probably have a lot of explaining to do. On Thursday night, Miller said more than twice that Arizona was "just not very good" right now. Seattle Pacific gave the Wildcats fits all night in the two teams' first exhibition game. It was Arizona's first exhibition loss since the 1984-85 season Lute Olson's second season at Arizona when it lost to Athletes in Action. For more than 33 minutes, UA looked more like athletes in inaction, trailing for all but seven minutes of the game. To the Cats' credit, they did rally from a 12-point deficit in the final 12 minutes to nearly get the win as freshman Nick Johnson helped rally UA with back-to-back 3-pointers and a basket from underneath. But, after a last-second steal by Hill, Johnson -- who led UA with 18 points -- missed a 3-pointer to give Miller his first exhibition loss as a head coach. Yes, Miller said, it was a bit weird. But he also said he knew it would be "a dogfight." "Once the game began, you could sense it was going to be a tough game," Miller said. "I think we'll have a difficult game on Tuesday (another exhibition against Humbolt State). It's going to be a hard game against Valparaiso (season opener), and ditto for Duquesne. Our starting point is where it is. It's so much about us getting better and players getting more comfortable. It's a great challenge." Seattle is no stranger to beating Division I programs, defeating Eastern Washington and Nevada last year in the exhibition season. "We are really thankful to have the game," said SPU coach Ryan Looney. "It's not every day that our level, we get to play a team like Arizona. I am really proud of the way our team stepped up and played hard." CHANGES COMING DOWN THE NCAA PIPE It isn't exactly a "show me the money" moment, but it does help the student-athlete. On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved a multi-faceted package in which conferences have the option of adding more money to student-athletes on full scholarships. They also made changes to spring and summer basketball recruiting. The board approved a measure providing up to 2,000 in spending money for student-athletes, what the NCAA calls "full cost of attendance." "It's a good thing," said Hill. "You can't really downplay extra money." NCAA President Mark Emmert called it "one of the most aggressive and fullest agendas the board has ever faced." Arizona coach Sean Miller called it "good because it favors the student-athlete. And anything that helps that is a good thing." Full scholarships currently include the cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees. Among other things, the board also agreed to allow unlimited contacts to prep players after June 15 of their sophomore year. And recruiting days were changed, with coaches being allowed four recruiting days in April and 12 in July, down from 20. April had been a dead period. "A lot the recruiting rules seem to benefit all parties," Miller said. "The coaches ... the April recruiting (decision) is something we've worked hard on getting implemented. To me, there are some really thought out changes that are great to see."
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