UCLA guard Tyler Lamb tries to keep the ball away from Arizona State guard… (Jennifer Stewart / U.S.…)
The issues were bound to leave them at a loss eventually.
The Bruins' inability to box out, put two halves together or commit fewer turnovers than their opponent caught up with them Sunday during a 76-72 overtime loss to California.
The problems had been easy to ignore during a stretch in which UCLA had won six consecutive games and 10 of 11. No longer.
"It can definitely be a wake-up call to try to tune some stuff up," junior guard Malcolm Lee said. "When you're winning, you kind of overlook all the little stuff. This is kind of like a reality check."
The reality confronting the Bruins is this: They have played consistently for 40 minutes only a handful of times this season. They neglect to block out on defense and at the free-throw line. And they continue to rank last in the Pacific 10 Conference in turnover margin, committing 3.2 more turnovers per game than their opponents.
All of those blemishes became painfully obvious against the Golden Bears. UCLA came out with low energy and was forced to play catchup the rest of the game; the Bruins gave up 16 offensive rebounds, including one on a missed free throw late in overtime; and they committed 18 turnovers to Cal's 11.
"I've been thinking about the game a lot ever since it ended," UCLA sophomore forward Reeves Nelson said. "I know personally I didn't play my best and all you can do now is everyone take it upon themselves to try and help the team win the next game."
They will get the chance Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion against last-place Arizona State, which nearly upset the Bruins last month in Tempe, Ariz. UCLA pulled out a 73-72 victory in overtime despite squandering a 15-point lead in the second half.
"We can't go into this game assuming we're going to win," Lee said.
Brendan Lane has played with renewed vigor since missing the Oregon game two weeks ago to attend his grandmother's funeral in Massachusetts.
The sophomore forward has scored 14 points in the last three games — as many as he had totaled in his 11 previous conference games. He has also averaged four rebounds per game, more than doubling his previous average of 1.8 rebounds in Pac-10 play.
"I think getting away mentally helped me be more relaxed and focused," Lane said. "The funeral puts everything in perspective and makes you appreciate what you have."
For the second time in two weeks, Coach Ben Howland said he wanted to give Tyler Lamb more minutes. The freshman guard who is averaging 13.1 minutes played a career-low three minutes against Cal, missing both of his shots.
"I should have played him more and I talked to him about that, because he gives us good defensive presence," Howland said. "That was my fault."