LOS ANGELES – Nick Johnson scored 22 points and No. 1 Arizona withstood UCLA’s late 15-1 run to beat the Bruins 79-75 Thursday night, equaling the best start in school history at 16-0.
The Wildcats (3-0 Pac-12) held on despite blowing a 13-point lead with 6:16 to play and committing a season-worst 17 turnovers.
Kaleb Tarczewski made all six of his field goal attempts and scored 16 points for the Wildcats, who snapped a three-game skid against the Bruins in the lone regular-season meeting between the longtime conference powers.
The 1931-32 Wildcats also began the season 16-0.
Freshman Zach LaVine hit a 3-pointer that got UCLA to 77-75 with 15 seconds left, but he missed another one with 2 seconds to go that would have left the Bruins down one.
Kyle Anderson had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Jordan Adams added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bruins (12-3, 1-1). They haven’t beaten a top-ranked team since March 13, 2003, when they took down Arizona in overtime in the Pac-12 tournament.
Buoyed by loud chants of “U of A” in Pauley Pavilion, the Wildcats pulled away to a 12-point lead midway through the second half after UCLA kept it close in the first 20 minutes. Arizona starters Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell all played with four fouls in the second half.
Johnson’s dunk gave Arizona its largest lead of the game, 68-55.
That’s when the Bruins reeled off a 15-1 run, including 13 consecutive points, to take their last lead at 70-69.
Adams hit a 3-pointer for a 68-all tie. He, Anderson and Bryce Alford combined to outscore the Wildcats, who made just one free throw during that stretch. Alford finished with 12 points.
The Wildcats were limited to one field goal over the final 1:27, when they went 8 of 10 from the free throw line to hang on.
The Bruins’ 79 points were the most scored by an Arizona opponent this season. They missed five straight free throws before their big run.
Arizona controlled the boards, 37-36, as it has done in all 16 games so far.
Arizona led 42-38 at the break, hitting three 3-pointers over the final 2:56, when UCLA twice tied the game.
Retired Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Clippers coach Doc Rivers attended the game, along with former Bruins Baron Davis, Jordan Farmar and Ryan Hollins. Injured Lakers guard Steve Nash, actor John Lithgow, who sat with Jackson, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea were there, too.