Back-to-back losses to the Pac-12's expected bottom feeders has UCLA in a most unwanted position. A looming matchup with the league's premier program makes for a potentially more uncomfortable situation.
The reeling Bruins return home Thursday night against No. 7 Arizona seeking to avoid their first 0-3 start in conference play in 34 years.
UCLA (9-6, 0-2 Pac-12) acquitted itself well during a challenging non-conference schedule in which it earned notable wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, but it's gotten the Pac-12 slate off on the wrong foot for a second consecutive season. After falling to Washington 96-93 in double overtime in Friday's league opener, the Bruins put forth an uninspired performance in an 85-78 loss Sunday at Washington State.
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The Cougars, picked to finish one spot behind Washington in last in the Pac-12 preseason poll, shot a season-high 55.4 percent to hand UCLA a third loss in four games.
''This is not the way we want to start the league and now it becomes a very long, tough road,'' Bruins coach Steve Alford said.
UCLA also lost two straight on the road to begin last season's Pac-12 schedule, then regrouped to finish 11-7 en route to reaching the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Avoiding its first 0-3 start since 1981-82 figures to be a tall order considering how Arizona (13-1, 1-0), the league's two-time defending regular-season champion, has fared over the past month.
The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense (63.3 points per game) and rebounding margin (+12.4), though they've been just as impressive on the offensive end during an eight-game winning streak. Arizona has averaged 88.2 points over its last five and shot 55.6 percent in Sunday's 94-82 victory at rival Arizona State.
Boosted by Kaleb Tarczewski's return from a foot injury, the Wildcats received 22 points from Gabe York and a second consecutive 20-point outing from standout freshman Allonzo Trier.
Tarczewski contributed eight points - five during a key 14-0 first-half run - in 15 minutes after missing the previous eight games.
"I don't know if we win without Kaleb," coach Sean Miller said. "His presence, just giving us another body in his 15 minutes, what he was able to do rebounding (and) defending. With him and without him we're two different teams."
UCLA has usually been a different team at Pauley Pavilion, where it's won seven straight after being upset in overtime by Monmouth in the Nov. 13 season opener. The Bruins have shot 47.2 percent at home compared to 41.6 percent in their three road games.
They'll hope to get leading scorer Bryce Alford back on track following a 2-of-10, nine-point performance against Washington State. The junior guard is 14 of 55 (25.5 percent) over his last four games.
Center Thomas Welsh has averaged 16.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in three straight double-doubles, while Isaac Hamilton had a season-high 27 points in Sunday's defeat.
Arizona won both of last season's two meetings, though neither took place in Westwood. The Wildcats had lost seven of eight at UCLA prior to a 79-75 victory in January 2014.
The Wildcats won 57-47 in Tucson on Feb. 21 and handed the Bruins a 70-64 loss in the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.