UCLA’s 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night marked the Bruins’ worst opening month in four years.
For the first time since 2011, the team suffered its third loss before the end of November, falling to fourth place in the Maui Invitational. UCLA (3-3) closed its deficit to 70-69 with 4:32 left in the game, but couldn’t find the basket again until the final minute.
The Demon Deacons’ biggest edge came at the free-throw line, where they made 30 of an astounding 42 attempts — though 14 came in the last 62 seconds. The Bruins hit 8 of 14. Center Thomas Welsh and freshman guard Aaron Holiday both fouled out while trying to stop the clock late.
“I’ve been doing this 25 years,” Alford said. “I’ve been on the short end of a lot of things. I’ve never had an experience where I’ve had a team get out-shot 42-14 at the free-throw line. That was the difference in the game.”
Alford was bested by Danny Manning, the former Tulsa coach whom he had defeated in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
In what is becoming a familiar theme in Alford’s third season, the Wake Forest took advantage of UCLA’s 11 turnovers, turning them into 24 points. In contrast, the Bruins only got four points off Wake Forest’s 10 turnovers.
UCLA stayed within single digits in the second half, but never closed the gap.
“Toughness is what it comes down to,” said Tony Parker, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds. “It’s nothing coaches can change. It’s something we’ve got to soul search. We’ve got to go home and soul search.”
“We played like we were supposed to be here. They played like they were blessed to be here, like they really wanted it.”