BERKELEY, Calif. – 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.
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. Travis 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 maintain momentum from a road sweep at the Washington schools last weekend.
But 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 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.
Cobbs, Cal's leading scorer averaging 16 points, shot 2 for 8 and was held to seven points to go with seven assists.
Montgomery had 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.
UCLA earned its first win in Berkeley since a 76-75 overtime victory on Jan. 6, 2010.
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.