ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- UCLA may not be into moral victories, but its effort in the John Wooden Classic certainly earned Kentucky's respect.
Cliff Hawkins scored seven of his 12 points in the final two minutes as No. 3 Kentucky overcame a gritty effort by the Bruins for a 52-50 victory at the Arrowhead Pond.
Despite rallying from an 17-point first-half deficit, UCLA (2-1) suffered its first loss under new coach Ben Howland. The Bruins opened the season with lackluster victories over Vermont and UC Riverside.
"This team doesn't give up," UCLA guard Cedric Bozeman said. "We like to go out and compete every game. I know our guys will play hard for 40 minutes."
Hawkins converted a pull-up jumper with 51 seconds to go to give Kentucky (4-0) a 49-44 advantage. He added three foul shots around a basket by Bozeman for a 52-48 advantage with 13 seconds remaining.
Ryan Hollins' dunk pulled UCLA within 52-50 with 6.4 seconds left. But the Bruins were unable to foul as the Wildcats ran out the clock and improved to 6-3 in the all-time series.
"We're doing a pretty good job on defense," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We fared OK because we're not getting that athleticism out of our post players."
UCLA recovered from having six baskets in the first half to shoot 44 percent (11-of-25) in the final 20 minutes. Kentucky was even worse, shooting 27 percent (16-of-59).
The backcourt of Hawkins and Gerald Fitch combined to make 3-of-21 shots.
"I only had one open shot the whole day," said Fitch, who entered averaging 24.0 points. "They were on me all day."
Kentucky, which never trailed, scored the game's first seven points as UCLA took nearly four minutes for its first basket. Erik Daniels, who scored 14 points, had a layup for a 23-6 advantage with 7:46 left before halftime.
"We were down 23-6, which was really a tough hole to dig ourselves out of," Howland said. "We came out and we'd never seen that kind of pressure defensively and we did not handle it well. As the game went on, we got better."
Daniels' layup gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the second half at 36-25, but the feisty Bruins scored the next eight points and stayed close the rest of the way.
The game featured the schools with the most NCAA titles - UCLA has 11 and Kentucky owns seven. It also was a rematch of the inaugural Wooden Classic in which UCLA's J.R. Henderson was fouled with one second left and made two at the line for an 82-81 victory.