LOS ANGELES -- For four minutes of a 76-64 loss Sunday at Pauley Pavilion, Cal had the look of a contender.
Down 51-32, the Golden Bears outscored UCLA 18-2 in a furious stretch to get within three points. Freshman Jabari Bird emerged from a recent funk to score 12 points and the Bears played with confidence and energy.
"It gives you an indication of what we can do if we just play hard," coach Mike Montgomery said.
But the Bears, who began the week tied for first place in the Pac-12 with top-ranked Arizona, couldn't sustain the effort. Cal (14-6, 5-2 Pac-12) went 0-for-2 in Los Angeles, falling into a second-place tie with the Bruins (16-4, 5-2).
No one emerged from the Cal locker room afterward sounding discouraged.
"It's just a little bump," said freshman guard Jordan Mathews, who led Cal with 18 points. "We've got a great team. I'm not worried about anything."
"I didn't expect this," senior forward Richard Solomon said. "But it doesn't have us questioning who we are."
There is no questioning the tough road ahead for the Bears. Arizona State, fresh off a 20-point win over Colorado, arrives in Berkeley on Wednesday night. Then the unbeaten Wildcats visit Haas Pavilion on Saturday.
For 25 minutes Sunday, the Bruins manhandled Cal. The Bears were pounded on the boards early, couldn't find good shots against a rangy UCLA zone defense and had no answer for the Bruins' 6-foot-9 point guard Kyle Anderson, who had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
But with the outcome seemingly settled, Bird gave the Bears a boost.
With Cal trailing by 19 with just over 15 minutes left, the former McDonald's All-America guard from Salesian High in Richmond found his mojo. He scored 12 points in a span of 3:56, hitting a 3-point shot, attacking the basket and scoring on the break.
"It was a big boost for my confidence," said Bird, who had scored eight points in three previous games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him three weeks. "We went on a nice little run. I just wish we could have sustained it."
Bird, still not back in top condition, became so exhausted that he had to remove himself from the game. Montgomery had no complaints with that.
"He needs to help us. He needs to come alive. He needs to be a player," Montgomery said. "If he's exhausted in four minutes I can live with that."
The Bears were back within 55-52 when UCLA answered with an 11-2 burst that ended Cal's comeback bid.
Cal's players acknowledge the game was lost in the first half, when the Bruins led by as many as 14 points on the way to a 40-29 score at the break.
"We let the lead balloon too much in the first half," Mathews said.
Solomon, who had nine points and 14 rebounds, said UCLA's defense caused the Bears trouble.
"The zone really hurt us," he said. "They were packing it in, and we couldn't get the ball movement we needed."
Part of that, Solomon said, was the result of inconsistent effort.
"There were stretches we weren't playing hard," he said. "We have to play hard for 40 minutes. We just can't play hard in spurts."
Point guard Justin Cobbs scored 14 points but made just two of his first eight shots. Backcourt mate Tyrone Wallace, who had scored double digits in nine straight games entering this week, shot 2 for 18 in the two games in Los Angeles.
Arizona State (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) at Cal (14-6, 5-2),
8 p.m. ESPNU