Nebraska gave No. 14 UCLA all it wanted, cutting a 15-point halftime deficit to two before the Bruins pulled away in with an 82-71 victory late Saturday in the Wooden Legacy.
The Huskers, who fell to 4-1, got a career-high 27 from sophomore Glynn Watson Jr. and 19 points and seven assists from Tai Webster, hung around for most of the second half until Bryce Alford scored six of his 18 points in a 11-5 surge to keep the Bruins (6-0) unbeaten.
Watson scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, hitting 8-of-11 shots from the field after intermission while Webster scored 13 second-half points to keep the Huskers (4-1) within striking distance until late.
The Huskers, who UCLA to a season-low 82 point after the Bruins entered the matchup averaging a national-best 104.4 points per contest, struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 29 percent as UCLA closed the half on a 16-6 run to build a 13-point halftime lead at 38-25.
Alford led five Bruins (6-0) in double figures, as Isaac Hamilton had 13 points, while Lonzo Ball had 13 points and seven assists before fouling out.
With the loss, the Huskers will play Virginia Tech in the third-place game Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU and will be carried on the IMG Husker Sports Network.
The Huskers fell behind early before running off six straight points to take a 10-9 lead after an Anton Gill 3-pointer with 12:28 left in the half. That would be the Huskers’ only lead, as UCLA regained the lead with five answered points. Nebraska was within 22-19 after a Watson jumper, but UCLA ran off nine straight points, capped by a Hamilton 3-pointer, that pushed the Bruins’ lead to 31-19 with 2:14 left before halftime.
The Bruins stretched the lead to 15 in the opening minute of the second half, but the Huskers would respond, as Watson scored four points in a 6-0 surge to get the lead back to 40-31 with 18:13 left. The Huskers would continue to claw back, as the Husker backcourt keyed an 11-2 surge, cutting a 49-37 deficit to 51-48 following a Watson jumper with 13:43 left.
But every time the Huskers got close, the Bruins would respond, as Ball scored five straight points to push the lead to 56-48. NU would continue to fight as 3-pointers from Webster and Watson made it a two-point game, at 58-56, with 9:26 left.
UCLA would respond, as a Hamilton 3-pointer highlighted a 9-2 UCLA spurt to push the lead back to 67-57 after a pair of Thomas Welsh free throws with 6:14 left. The Huskers would regroup, pulling to within 69-64 on a Watson 3-pointer and had a chance to get closer, but could not capitalize, as Hamilton’s third 3-pointer of the night pushed the lead back to eight. NU would pull to within 72-66 after a Webster steal and basket with 2:57 left, but would get no closer the rest of the way.