No. 23 UCLA keeps pace in Pac-12, beats Cal 86-66
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) UCLA is on a late-season roll and right in the mix for a Pac-12 championship, hoping to chase down an Arizona team that has shown its imperfections.
Jordan Adams scored 28 points and the No. 23 Bruins returned to the national rankings with an impressive 86-66 victory against California on Wednesday night to keep pace in the conference title chase.
''That's where our eyes are and that's where our goal is, to get this league championship,'' forward Travis Wear said. ''We're going to try to win every game from here on out and see what happens in the end.''
Due to the schedule, UCLA won't get a second shot at the first-place Wildcats during the regular season. So the Bruins are doing their best to win out and keep things interesting.
Kyle Anderson had 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Bruins (21-5, 10-3), who won their fourth straight game and seventh in eight. UCLA remained a game behind Arizona, which won in overtime at Utah.
''I thought this was as well as we've played in a while,'' coach Steve Alford said. ''We want to stay in the conference race. We had a chance tonight to put another team two games behind us with five left and we had a chance to get another road win.''
Jordan Mathews scored 16 off the bench for cold-shooting Cal (17-9, 8-5), which couldn't pull off the same spectacular finish at raucous Haas Pavilion as it did in stunning then-No. 1 and unbeaten Arizona 60-58 on Feb. 1.
''We've been playing some good basketball as of late,'' Wear said. ''This is the perfect time to be doing it so we can be really dangerous heading into the late season. Cal is right behind us in league and we knew they would come out and give us their best shot. We came out with a lot of energy and from the get-go we put it on.''
Adams shot 12 for 19 and scored five straight points midway through the second half that put the Bruins ahead 71-50 with 9:24 remaining. He also had six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Wear added 13 points.
Anderson, who had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in the first meeting with Cal last month, got plenty of help as the Bruins returned to the Top 25 for the first time since early in conference play last month. UCLA had 21 assists to six turnovers.
Cal's inconsistency on both ends hurt as the team tried to keep momentum from a road sweep at the Washington schools last weekend.
Every time the Golden Bears threatened, UCLA made a big shot or clutch play. The Bruins ended a three-game losing streak on Cal's home floor and made it a sweep of the two regular-season meetings between the schools after a 76-64 victory at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 26.
''We never looked back. I don't know if we trailed at all,'' Alford said. ''That's hard to do in this building.''
Justin Cobbs' runner and three-point play pulled Cal to 34-30 with 3:46 before halftime, but UCLA answered with a 7-0 spurt that included four straight points from Wear. The Bruins closed out a strong first half with Adams' 3-pointer to just beat the shot clock and put his team ahead 44-32 at the break.
UCLA's 83.2 points per game coming in ranked 10th nationally, with the Bruins boasting their highest-scoring offense in nearly two decades.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery called on his players to do more of the little things this time to have a chance to beat the Bruins, who held the Bears to 34.5 percent shooting in the first meeting and 44 percent Wednesday.
''They were certainly better than us tonight,'' Montgomery said. ''I don't think there's any question about that.''
UCLA earned its first win in Berkeley since a 76-75 overtime victory on Jan. 6, 2010.
''I haven't won here. It feels good to come in and win in this fashion,'' Wear said.
In one key first-half sequence, UCLA's Norman Powell blocked a dunk attempt Tyrone Wallace that would have cut UCLA's lead to six, and the Bruins got a dunk from Tony Parker on the other end moments later.
A slow start and inconsistent offense hurt Cal again. The cold-shooting Bears were 3 for 12 just 8:49 into the game and forced to try to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Cal missed five of its first nine shots and committed three turnovers in the first 5 minutes.
''We just didn't have any intensity,'' guard Jabari Bird said. ''We made a few changes, started playing harder. We were getting aggressive, we had some shots going. Like a good team, they sustained our run and pushed the lead back up.''
A moment of silence was held for late Cal football player Ted Agu before the national anthem. Agu died Feb. 7 at age 21 after collapsing during a training run with teammates.