LOS ANGELES — It had been 12 years since Mike Montgomery walked out of Pauley Pavilion on the losing end of a basketball game.
But his first trip to UCLA's home floor as Cal's men's coach was a disaster.
On a night where every other score around the Pac-10 provided a golden opportunity, the Golden Bears trailed by 21 points with 12 minutes left and never made it a game in an 81-66 loss Thursday night.
A win could have given the Bears (16-5, 5-3) a share of the top spot in the Pac-10 after first-place Washington lost at Arizona.
Instead, the Bears turned the ball over 16 times in a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard first half, then watched No. 22 UCLA (16-4, 6-2) take command with a 20-2 second-half run.
"They just completely, physically dominated us. We got backed off — that's what they do," Montgomery said. "We got weak with the ball, and that's no way to play UCLA."
Montgomery had won his final seven games coaching Stanford at Pauley, unbeaten from 1998 through 2004. No other Pac-10 coach — even retired Arizona Hall of Famer Lute Olson — can match that.
But after a four-year hiatus from college coaching — during which the Bruins have gone to three Final Fours — No. 8 was not happening.
"We came out and they got us on our heels a little bit and dug ourselves a hole," said Theo Robertson, who scored a game-high 19 points, all in the second half. "We didn't match their physicality."
UCLA won its 28th consecutive conference game played on a Thursday and moved into a tie with Washington for first place.
A year after the Bears lost here on a controversial shot by Josh Shipp with 1.5 seconds left, there was no doubt about this one. UCLA led 51-30 after Michael Roll made two free throws with 12:16 left to complete a 13-0 run.
After a 15-2 start to its season, Cal heads to USC on Saturday night having dropped three of its past four games.
Cal's Jerome Randle had 11 points and four assists but also six turnovers.
Patrick Christopher, who arrived in his hometown needing 13 points to reach 1,000 for his career, didn't make a field goal until there was just 3:11 left in the game and wound up with a season-low six points.
Point guard Darren Collison led the Bruins with 18 points, but defense won the game for UCLA.
The Bears shot just 33 percent from the field to the point where UCLA had engineered its 51-30 lead, and the rest didn't matter. The Bruins shot 55 percent from the field, had 16 steals and outrebounded Cal 34-23.
UCLA squeezed a season-high 21 turnovers out of the Bears.
"I don't have a lot to complain about tonight," said hard-to-please UCLA coach Ben Howland. "I'm pretty happy."
UCLA led 31-23 at halftime, and the Bears had to be feeling grateful it wasn't worse after committing 16 turnovers.
"Sixteen turnovers is a whole game's worth. There's absolutely no excuse," Montgomery said.
The Bears pulled within three points in the opening two minutes of the second half, then UCLA took over. Cal scored just one basket in a span of 6:30, and the Bruins roared to 21-point lead.
"We made a couple plays offensively to get it to three," Montgomery said, "but we never did anything well enough to win a game like this. We didn't guard well enough and we were having a hard time running offense."
Contact Jeff Faraudo at email@example.com.
Washington 6-2 15-5
UCLA 6-2 16-4
Cal 5-3 16-5
USC 5-3 14-6
Arizona St. 5-3 16-4
Washington St. 4-4 12-8
Oregon St. 3-5 9-10
Stanford 3-5 13-5
Arizona 3-5 13-8
Oregon 0-8 6-14