LOS ANGELES – The third-ranked team in the country two months ago, the Arizona Wildcats are now the fourth-best team in the Pac-12.
Arizona allowed UCLA to go on a 12-0 run in the early second half and, despite cutting the Bruins’ lead to just three points in the final minute, never recovered in a 74-69 loss to the Bruins tonight at Pauley Pavilion.
The loss, Arizona’s fourth in its past seven games, dropped the Wildcats into fourth place in the Pac-12 at 11-6 after California beat Colorado earlier today. UA is now 23-6 overall.
UCLA improved to 22-7 and 12-4, where it is tied with Oregon for first place.
Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins with 18 points while guard Larry Drew had 14 points and nine assists. Kyle Anderson had 17 points and seven rebounds.
Grant Jerrett led UA with 14 points, hitting two late three-pointers that cut the Bruins’ lead within a basket.
The Wildcats did themselves in with poor starts to both halves but stumbled in particularly costly fashion after halftime. UCLA outscored the Wildcats 12-2 through the first five minutes of the second half. During that time, the Bruins made 5 of 8 shots during that span while UA made only 1 of 6 and turned the ball over twice.
UCLA took double-digit leads in the second half, though Arizona made it interesting in the final minutes.
Jerrett hit two straight three pointers, the last with 1:08 remaining, to cut UCLA’s lead to 72-69.
The Bruins then lost the ball, giving UA 24 seconds to run off a final play. But Mark Lyons drove downcourt, began to penetrate and pulled up for a 14-footer that missed, and UCLA had the ball with 10 seconds left before Muhammad hit both ends of a one-and-one to seal the Bruins’ win.
The Wildcats actually buried themselves with poor starts at the beginning of both halves, a problem they have had throughout the Pac-12 season. At the first media timeout of the first half, UCLA led 9-5 while UA had five turnovers.
The rest of the first half was mostly owned by Anderson, who tore through Arizona for 15 points to help give the Bruins a 40-36 halftime lead.
Anderson, the highly touted freshman wing, made 7 of 12 field goals while helping the Bruins shoot 47.1 percent overall from the field before halftime. UCLA also took advantage of nine UA turnovers in the first half, scoring 11 points off them.
Drew, a senior transfer from North Carolina who was playing his final game at UCLA, had six assists in the first half for the Bruins.
Lyons led UA in first-half scoring with 11 points. Arizona shot 46.7 percent from the field and outrebounded the Bruins 20-14
After UCLA took a 20-13 lead midway through the first half, the game tightened up while Mark Lyons and Jordin Mayes hit three-pointers for UA. But Anderson scored seven points over the final four minutes of the half and Drew finished it off with a layup just before time expired.
The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 13 with 12 minutes left in the first half after Kevin Parrom hit a three pointer and Kaleb Tarczewski scored inside.
But the Bruins fired back with a high-powered 7-0 run of their own in just 53 seconds: UCLA had dunks by Travis Wear and Norman Powell, who bowled over Jordin Mayes, while Anderson blocked Lyons and Jordan Adams made a three-pointer.
The Wildcats struggled in the opening minutes of the game. After Mark Lyons made a layup on the Wildcats’ first possession, Arizona went 6:33 without another field goal and had five turnovers in the first five minutes while UCLA took a quick 13-6 lead.
The Wildcats have only one remaining game in the regular season, Saturday against ASU at McKale Center.