Reporting from Berkeley -- Josh Smith curled a perfect pass to David Wear, a planned play to start the second half of a Pac-12 Conference basketball game between UCLA and California on Saturday at Haas Pavilion.
Wear was unaware and ham-handed, though. A Cal guard poked at the ball and it fell out of bounds. Instead of a layup that would have given them the lead, the Bruins had a turnover and soon the Golden Bears were in the midst of a rout.
Cal beat UCLA, 85-69, and for the first time since the 1987-88 season — when Walt Hazzard was coaching his final season in Westwood — the Bruins (7-7) have started conference play with two losses.
Those Bruins lost three consecutive games to begin league play but recovered, finishing 12-6 and tied for second in the Pacific 10.
After Wear’s fumble, Justin Cobbs, a sophomore guard from Los Angeles, made a three-point shot, the start of a 10-0 run that put Cal up, 50-39.
With 10 minutes left, California was up, 64-45, and for Bruins fans the only positive was Tyler Lamb scoring a career-high 26 points. Otherwise the Bruins were lifeless, on the court and on the bench.
“Cal just scored too easily,” Coach Ben Howland said. “Whether it was against our man or our zone, they just scored so easily.”
The Golden Bears shot 65.4% from the field and had 28 assists on 34 baskets, a sign that the Bruins couldn’t disrupt Cal’s rhythm. Six Golden Bears scored in double figures, led by Allen Crabbe’s 20 points.
Coach Mike Montgomery said his team was comfortable all game.
“You don’t have that all the time,” he said. “It was fun to watch.”
While Cal (12-3, 2-0 in Pac-12) was making its early second-half run, UCLA committed two turnovers, had a missed layup from Smith and a badly conceived three-point try from Lamb that resulted in a long Cal rebound and a Crabbe layup.
But it was mostly his team’s defense that had Howland rubbing his tired eyes.
“They just continued to score time after time after time,” he said. “We were just slow.”
Lamb, among all the Bruins, seemed the most discouraged.
“Cal played good,” the sophomore guard said, “but we’ve got to come out here and play way better than that. Way better.”
As to why the Bruins defense was so bad, Lamb said he wished he knew.
“Then it would be easy to fix,” he said.
To find the team already down in the conference, he said, was also hard to take.
“Coming back, it’s going to be very hard but it has to be done,” he said. “I’m pretty sure everybody in that locker room wants to turn the season around. From this point every game is a must-win game.”
Wear, who had a career-high 17 points, said the bad defense is fixable.
“We had some breakdowns, overextended on stuff but it’s like the start of the season. We just have to come together,” he said.
The Bruins started the season 0-2 and were 2-5 before winning five games in a row. Now it’s back to a losing streak.
“Nobody here is happy right now at all,” Lamb said.
New Year’s Eve plans for the Bruins?
“Everybody will be in his room asleep or watching film,” Lamb said.