Bruin fans inside Pauley Pavilion were quiet once the final buzzer sounded and UCLA found themselves on the opposition of a well-rounded performance.
Abysmal free-throw shooting, and costly late game turnovers resulted in a 74-72 loss to Belmont Saturday afternoon after Kevin McClain found a wide-open back door cut that quickly turned into the game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, UCLA looked to counter with a basket to tie or take the lead, but failed to do so, converting their 13th turnover of the game.
“I didn’t like our energy, I didn’t like our attention to detail, our enthusiasm at all. That falls squarely on my shoulders,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “I just did a really poor job of getting them ready because I thought of all our games — nine, 10 games, now — that was the most lethargic, less-energy effort.”
UCLA small forward Kris Wilkes led all scorers with 20 points, but was 0-for-5 from the field in the second half.
“I just sucked,” Wilkes said.
“Really, I think with me not playing at a high intensity, that kind of filters out to other players on the team,” Wilkes added. “I have to come to play every half and the whole game.”
UCLA shot 12-28 from the charity stripe and 8-28 from three-point distance, while Belmont made 11 threes on 34 percent shooting.
Jaylen Hands finished with 12 points and seven assists, while Cody Riley and Prince Ali both added 10 points.
“It’s a 15-footer with nobody guarding you,” Alford said, “so we gotta do a better job in practice of just working on it.”
“Either you can make them, or you can’t. It’s a concentration thing,” added Ali. “Everybody knows we can make them. When we shoot them in practice, we make them, so when we come out here [in games] we just have to concentrate and make them.”
UCLA led by as many as 12, (29-17) with 8:24 remaining in the first half, but Belmont responded a 12-0 run behind four consecutive three-point baskets.
The Bruins opened the second half with a three-point lead, (43-40) but made only eight field goals and shot 37 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes of play.
“I’m just not happy with our half-court offense,” Alford added on his team being outscored 34-29 in the second half. “Now we get Cincinnati, who gives up about 12 points a game, so it will be a great test for our half-court offense that’s been very lacking.”
Up next, things will get no easier for UCLA, as they prepare for one of their toughest road trips of the season. The Bruins will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., only before taking on No. 15 Ohio State in Chicago on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic at noon.
“It’s just something we’re going to have to figure out internally, everybody,” Ali said. “But we’re going to be alright. We’re going to be alright. We’ll just learn from this.”