BERKELEY — California missed early shots, committed costly turnovers and never could keep pace with UCLA.
With a chance to gain ground in the Pac-12 race, the Golden Bears fell flat in an 86-66 loss to the 23rd-ranked Bruins on Wednesday night. Coach Mike Montgomery knows there is a lot of fine-tuning to do to have his team prepared come conference tournament time next month.
“I guess at this juncture you’d really be stupid to say they’re not better than us. They beat us twice pretty soundly,” said Montgomery, whose starters went 10 for 30 from the field.
“That makes it tough on us. We’re not passing the ball very cleanly right now. The ball is being held too long, and the passes that we are making are not helping our teammates. So as a result, we’re not getting into any kind of rhythm.”
UCLA found its groove on both ends in a hurry.
Jordan Adams scored 28 points and the Bruins stayed right behind first-place Arizona in the conference title chase.
The schedule doesn’t give UCLA a second shot at the Wildcats during the regular season, so the Bruins are doing their best to win out and make things interesting.
“It’s unfortunate Arizona doesn’t have to play UCLA again,” Montgomery said. “UCLA doesn’t have a chance to get back at them.”
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 No. 4 Arizona, which won in overtime at Utah.
“I thought this was as well as we’ve played in a while,” Bruins 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.