LOS ANGELES (AP) — As a kid, Bryce Alford would have his mother count down from five and he’d try to make a last-second shot in the family driveway.
With much more at stake, the junior hit a winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, lifting UCLA to an 87-84 victory over No. 7 Arizona on Thursday night for the Bruins’ first Pac-12 win after opening conference play with consecutive road losses.
“A huge game,” Alford said. “If we lose this, we’re 0-3 to start the year and that’s a hard hole to come out of.”
Alford finished with 25 points. After winning the game, he walked by former Bruin and Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who was on his feet yelling.
“I hit the shot, turned around and he was just screaming at me,” said Alford, who wore giveaway eyeglass frames in honor of Westbrook. “He’s one of us.”
Aaron Holiday added 15 points, Isaac Hamilton had 14 points and Tony Parker had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Bruins (10-6, 1-2). They lost to the Washington schools last weekend, when Alford had just nine points in the loss to Washington State.
“If Bryce Alford had a different last name and played for a different school the accolades he would get nationally would be far more than he gets right now playing for his dad at UCLA,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit. He dominated the game — 25 points, six assists and no turnovers.”
Alford hit five 3-pointers and Hamilton added three of UCLA’s 11 — a season-high against the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson had 15 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Wildcats (13-2, 1-1), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped. Allonzo Trier added 13 points and Kaleb Tarczewski had 12 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back from a foot injury.
Miller was irate with his team for being lazy on defense.
“This is the worst defensive team that I’ve coached at Arizona since my first year,” he said. “The last shot of the game is a reflection of that. We didn’t switch Kaleb Tarczewski onto Bryce Alford. You literally have to be out of your mind to do that. But we did our own thing on the last play and he took the easiest shot he’s ever taken in Pauley Pavilion on a game-winner.”
The Bruins opened the second half with a 16-9 run to go ahead 59-45. They ran off 10 straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Alford and Hamilton, for their largest lead of the game.
Arizona tied it at 83 on a three-point play by Kadeem Allen, capping a 10-0 run in the closing two minutes. Allen easily got by UCLA big man Thomas Welsh for a dunk after Trier hit a 3-pointer in the spurt.
Hamilton got fouled, missing the first and making the second for an 84-83 lead. Hamilton fouled Anderson on a drive, and he made the first and missed the second, tying the game at 84 with 14 seconds to go.
“We had a lot of dumb mistakes in the last minute. Took some tough shots and just didn’t get any stops,” Bryce Alford said. “We really let that slip and we were lucky to get a win out of it.”
Alford got free for a 3-pointer to preserve the victory for the Bruins, who shot a season-high 52 percent against Arizona.
Moments earlier, UCLA coach Steve Alford had feared the worst.
“It felt like, ‘Oh great, we’re going to let this thing slip away,'” he said. “They hung in there.”
Alford hit consecutive 3-pointers to end the first half with the Bruins leading 43-36. Arizona’s only lead of one point in the first half came on a 3-pointer by Parker Jackson-Cartwright before the Bruins outscored the Wildcats 10-2 to end the half.
Arizona: The Wildcats’ six-game streak of scoring 80 or more points ended. … Tarczewski has 1,004 points in his four-year career. … The Wildcats are starting Pac-12 play with three straight road games for the first time since 1994-95.
UCLA: It was Russell Westbrook Night in honor of his major financial contribution to the school’s basketball practice facility currently under construction. That gym’s court will be named for Westbrook. Kevin Durant and the rest of Westbrook’s Thunder teammates were on hand. Fans received eyeglass frames, a nod to Westbrook’s eyewear for postgame news conferences. … Former UCLA coach Jim Harrick and Hall of Famer Lute Olson, who coached the Wildcats, sat next to each other.
The Bruins knocked off their third ranked team this season, having beaten then-No. 1 Kentucky at home on Dec. 3 and then-No. 20 Gonzaga on the road nine days later. Their ranked losses have been to Kansas and North Carolina.
“This was a game we had to have,” the elder Alford said.
Tarczewski was forced to guard Alford on his winning shot, which wasn’t what the Wildcats wanted.
“It was a misunderstanding,” Tarczewski said. “That’s how we lost but there were a lot of other plays that were the ultimate reason we lost that game. The last play was obviously a disappointment. It would have been nice to go into overtime and maybe pick up the win.”
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
“Even though I dress better than him, he’s still a great guy.” — Parker on Westbrook.
Arizona: Visits Southern California on Saturday.
UCLA: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday.
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