LOS ANGELES — A valiant Louisiana-Lafayette second-half rally came up just short, and No. 22 UCLA kept finding the shots it needed in the final 10 minutes to take a 89-80 win.
The Cajuns (3-5) came out firing to start the second half, knocking down nine of their first 14 second-half shots to trim a 15-point UCLA lead to four with 10:13 to go.
Point guard Jay Wright was crucial during that stretch, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and a layup for eight points in the opening minutes of the half.
But as soon as it looked like the Cajuns were on the verge of taking their first lead of the game, the Bruins regained control. UCLA (8-3) made four straight shots and a pair of field goals to go on an 11-2 run and push its lead to 13.
Led by senior forward Shawn Long, the Cajuns once again fought back, answering the Bruins rally with a 12-5 run of their own. Long sank a pair of 3-pointers during that stretch, scoring nine of his team-high 26 points in a four-minute span. Long scored 20 points in the second half, and also grabbed 16 rebounds.
But the closest the Cajuns would get is six points. A Bryce Alford 3-pointer pushed the Bruins lead back to nine, and UCLA made seven of its final eight free throws to seal the win.
The Bruins roared out to a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game as the Cajuns missed seven of their first eight shots from the floor.
UCLA’s lead swelled to as large as 19 in the first half, but the Cajuns offense found its groove and battling back.
Wright capped an 8-0 Cajuns run with a pair of free throws near the end of the first half to cut UCLA’s lead to nine points, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Alford quickly pushed that lead back to 15 points.
Alford had 17 first-half points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a 3-for-4 effort from the 3-point line, and finished with a game-high 27 points. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Johnathan Stove sent the Cajuns into the locker room trailing 47-35.
The Cajuns will stay in California to play Pepperdine on Friday.