LOS ANGELES - UCLA has been unable to beat a big-time opponent under new coach Steve Alford.
The Bruins added a 79-75 loss against No. 1 Arizona on Thursday night to earlier defeats against Missouri and Duke.
Kyle Anderson had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Jordan Adams added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bruins (12-3, 1-1 Pac-12). They haven't beaten a top-ranked team since March 13, 2003, when they took down Arizona in overtime in the conference tournament.
But they weren't hanging their heads.
"I'm not one for moral victories, but we did fight hard," Anderson said, giving his team credit for playing better than it did in the nine-point loss at Missouri and 17-point defeat against Duke in New York.
"The other two losses were bad losses. We kind of shut down when we were down."
Nick Johnson scored 22 points to lead the Wildcats (16-0, 3-0), who blew a 13-point lead with 6:16 to play. They committed a season-worst 17 turnovers and nearly got beaten on the boards (37-36) for the first time this season.
"We're not far off," Alford said. "We know that. Although this loss hurts, there's encouragement to come out of this."
Freshman Zach LaVine hit a 3-pointer that got UCLA to 77-75 with 15 seconds left, but he missed another one with 2 seconds to go that would have left the Bruins down one.
"I liked our fight tonight," Alford said. "We didn't get beat by an average team because we threw the ball all over the place. We had nine turnovers. We got a lot of energy from the crowd, and that was very good."
Buoyed by loud chants of "U of A" in sold-out Pauley Pavilion, the Wildcats pulled away to a 12-point lead midway through the second half after UCLA kept it close in the first 20 minutes. Arizona starters Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell all played with four fouls in the second half.
Kaleb Tarczewski made all six of his field goal attempts and scored 16 points for the Wildcats, who snapped a three-game skid against the Bruins in the lone regular-season meeting between the longtime conference powers.
The 1931-32 Wildcats also began the season 16-0.
Johnson's dunk gave Arizona its largest lead of the game, 68-55.
That's when the Bruins reeled off a 15-1 run, including 13 consecutive points, to take their last lead at 70-69.
Adams hit a 3-pointer for a 68-all tie. He, Anderson and Bryce Alford combined to outscore the Wildcats, who made just one free throw during that stretch. Alford finished with 12 points.
The Wildcats were limited to one field goal over the final 1:27, when they went 8 of 10 from the free throw line to hang on.
The Bruins' 79 points were the most scored by an Arizona opponent this season. They missed five straight free throws before their big run.
"They were crucial," Anderson said. "We will get to the free throw line in practice and fix that."
Arizona led 42-38 at the break, hitting three 3-pointers over the final 2:56, when UCLA twice tied the game.
Retired Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Clippers coach Doc Rivers attended the game, along with former Bruins Baron Davis, Jordan Farmar and Ryan Hollins. Injured Lakers guard Steve Nash, actor John Lithgow, who sat with Jackson, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea were there, too.