Bruins grow in tough loss vs. No. 1 Arizona

The Bruins showed the resolve that was non-existent in the team's other two losses against Missouri and Duke.

LOS ANGELES — The Bruins continue to get close, but that big, defining win still eludes them.

On Thursday night in front of a packed crowd at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA tied No. 1 Arizona with just 2:14 left to play. A furious 15-1 rally in the closing minutes brought the star-studded crowd of 13,283 to its feet as Jordan Adams drained a game-tying three.

But as head coach Steve Alford has warned, his team is not yet a finished product. So as the clock wound down, so did UCLA as the Wildcats escaped with a 79-75 win.  

"They’re No. 1 in the country for a lot of reasons," Alford said. "But we’re not far off. This is encouraging; I hope our guys understand that it’s encouraging. I hope the loss hurts, but there is some encouragement coming out of this."

The Wildcats are one of three remaining unbeatens (16-0, 3-0 Pac-12), but the Bruins have traditionally played them exceptionally tough. This time around was no different as the two battled to a four-point deficit at the half. With star forward Aaron Gordon on the bench in foul trouble, the Bruins used a 15-1 run to tie the game and then take a one-point lead before a floater in the lane by Nick Johnson ultimately doomed UCLA with 1:27 left to play.

Finally, the Bruins (12-3, 1-1) showed the resolve that was non-existent in the team’s other two losses against Missouri and Duke.

"Being down to a very good team, we did a good job of fighting back," said guard Kyle Anderson. "In previous games, we kind of shut down when we were down. The other two losses were very bad losses. It wasn’t anything we did wrong down the stretch. We only got out-rebounded by one.

"We did all we could. We fought hard and everyone gave great effort."

Anderson played like Kyle Anderson, making an array of shots from all over the court and distributing efficiently. He finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

While maybe not statistically, Tony Parker had one of his best performances of the season, playing tremendous defense and scrapping and hustling for every single possession. Rebounding has been a weakness of UCLA’s all season, but with Parker and Jordan Adams (12 points, 11 rebounds) leading the charge, the Bruins battled hard on the glass and out-rebounded the Wildcats through much of the game.

"UCLA was very strong on the boards tonight," said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. "We had not seen that in previous games."

The Bruins also took advantage of the open looks and miscues, scoring 21 points off of Arizona’s season-high 17 turnovers.

I hope the loss hurts, but there is some encouragement coming out of this

-- UCLA coach Steve Alford

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Steve Nash and former Bruins Ryan Hollins, Baron Davis and Jordan Farmar were among those watching the Bruins grow in a tough game. Gains were made and the team took a big step forward.

But was it a big enough step?

"I thought we made strides," Alford said. "I told the team that. At Missouri, I thought we did a good job in the first half. In the second half, they made a run at us and we could never catch them. We didn’t have the same intensity then. And then when we played Duke in Madison Square Garden, the last six minutes of the game we didn’t have near the fight we had tonight when we were down 13.

"Those are strides. You like those strides to be made in wins? Obviously. But I’ve seen strides in a lot of different areas with this basketball team."