UCLA's five-game winning streak is over.
For a half, UCLA stayed with #11 North Carolina thanks to a terrific 3-point shooting performance by Isaac Hamilton and dreadful perimeter shooting by the Tar Heels. But the second half was a much different story, with UNC exposing UCLA's deficiencies in transition defense.
UCLA started strong against the Tar Heels. A couple of three-pointers by Isaac Hamilton and a bucket each from Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker gave the Bruins an early 10-3 lead.
But Hamilton was just getting started. After North Carolina had chipped away at the Bruins' lead to close the gap to 10-7, Hamilton knocked down another pair of threes, and the Bruins were back in front by seven at 16-9.
Tony Parker extended the UCLA lead to 10 with a bucket and a free throw, and after trading baskets, UCLA grabbed its biggest lead of the half when Bryce Alford nailed a three-pointer to put the Bruins up 26-15.
Once again, the Tar Heels chipped away at UCLA's lead, and the Bruins didn't help the cause with four turnovers in less than three minutes. But UCLA had an eight point lead again when Alford hit a three with 6:16 left in the first half.
With just over five minutes left in the half, Welsh picked up his third foul and headed to the bench. The Bruins had a 33-25 lead at that point. A little over a minute later, the Tar Hells were within three.
After Parker picked up an incorrectly called charge, he joined Welsh on the bench for the remainder of the half, and UNC almost immediately pulled even. The Tar Heels kept attacking the basket, and when Brice Johnson dunked a pass from Marcus Paige with 1:20 left in the half, the Tar Heels had their first lead since the opening basket.
The Bruins shut down North Carolina in the final minute of the first half, and Bryce Alford hit a tough running bank shot in the final seconds to knot the score at 38 as the Bruins and Tar Heels headed for the locker room.
Although the Bruins finished the first half with 11 turnovers, they were 6 of 10 on three pointers while the Tar Heels were just 1-11 from deep in the first half. Would UCLA's hot shooting continue in the second half, and would it be enough to overcome its habit of turning over the ball?
UNC opened the second half with three straight stops and eight straight points, aided by a pair of offensive rebounds and a foul by Tony Parker. Suddenly the Tar Heels were up 46-38, and Parker was back on the bench with three fouls.
This time it was the Bruins turn to chip away at the lead. When Alford hit a deep three a little more than four minutes into the half, UCLA was back within three.
Shortly after returning to the floor, Tony Parker picked up his fourth foul, and North Carolina continued to attack the basket, building a seven point lead, 58-51 at the 12 minute mark.
Less than a minute later, the Bruins were back within 3 at 58-55 after a jumper by Hamilton and a tip-in by Welsh.
UCLA had a great chance to cut the lead when Aaron Holiday went to the charity stripe, but he missed both, and the Tar Heels scored inside at the other end to go up by five, 62-57.
North Carolina was up by 10 a minute later after a pair of UCLA turnovers, a bucket and free throw by Luke Maye and a Justin Jackson jumper. With 7:55 left to play, Steve Alford called timeout to stop the bleeding.
Unfortunately it didn't work. Coming out of the timeout, Bryce Alford missed a jumper, and Joel Berry II took the rebound the other way to score while getting fouled by Alford. Suddenly the Tar Heels were up by 12, 69-57.
It got worse. Berry hit a jumper and Brice Johnson scored a layup to extend the UNC lead to 16. Steve Alford called another timeout.
The Bruins went straight to Parker for two, and Hamilton hit a jumper, but the Bruins couldn't get a stop at the other end. With just under 5 minutes left in the game, North Carolina was up 80-63.
Isaac Hamilton scored seven straight points, but UCLA wasn't getting stops at the other end. A short jumper by Tony Parker brought the Bruins within 12 with 2:30 left in the contest, but Marcus Paige scored a deep three on UNC's next possession to make the score 87-72.
UCLA's Alec Wulff hit a three pointer in garbage time to make the final score look a bit better, but UCLA never threatened the North Carolina lead after the Tar Heels went up by 10 with about eight minutes left in the game.
Isaac Hamilton led UCLA with 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Bryce Alford added 15 points, and Tony Parker collected a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately, Parker also had six of the Bruins' 17 turnovers.
Brice Johnson scored 27 for the Tar Heels.
UCLA is now 8-4 with only a home game against McNeese State on Tuesday before the start of the Pac-12 season.
The Bruins Nation community will no doubt be divided in what it takes from this game. In this week's poll, nearly 40% of Bruins Nation readers indicated that they think the Bruins will win the Pac-12 regular season title, while 27% think that UCLA will be ranked in the top-10 in the final AP Poll of 2015-16. Does today's result change your opinion of the Bruins' prospects this season?