Afterward, Texas coach Rick Barnes didn't mince words.
"I thought we gave the game away," Barnes said. "We didn't execute the things that we wanted to execute."
Sheldon McClellan aced two free throws with 3:02 remaining to build a 61-53 lead, and it appeared the Longhorns (5-4) had all the momentum. But it took the Bruins (6-3) all of 1:47 to erase that eight-point advantage, thanks to a Larry Drew II layup and back-to-back and-one plays for Jordan Adams.
"I thought the play of the game was Adams's offensive rebound and stick back," Barnes said.
That was the play that tied it up. When Drew missed a three-point attempt, Adams scrapped for the rebound and finished through contact from Julien Lewis. He made the free throw to tie the game at 61. Less than 30 seconds later, Shabazz Muhammad made one-of-two free throws to give UCLA a lead at 62-61, and when Kyle Anderson blocked a Javan Felix shot attempt, then raced to the other end for a layup — with an assist from Adams, of course — the Bruins led by three.
Jonathan Holmes hit a whirling jumper, cutting the lead to one, and Adams missed the second-of-two free throws, leading to a scramble play as time was running out. But a deep three from Holmes fell short, as did the Longhorns.
The final three minutes closed the door on what had been a stellar 21 or so minutes from the Longhorns, one that saw Texas rebound from a 30-23 gap to take an eight-point lead of their own. Texas trailed by two at halftime despite shooting just 1-for-11 from three, thanks largely to nine points and five boards from Cameron Ridley, as well as an inspired half from Felix.
With the Bruin zone giving Felix room to breathe, he scored 13 points and dished out four assists to two turnovers heading into the final three minutes, when — with UCLA ramping up its press — he committed two turnovers and had a shot blocked and turned into a fast-break layup.
Afterward, Barnes admitted that Felix was playing about 23 minutes more than the Longhorns planned on playing him. Considering that Felix played 38 minutes, Barnes thought the freshman's impact — with Kabongo playing, of course — should have been 15 minutes per game or so.
The comeback also laid waste to a strong half for wings McClellan and Lewis, who, after scoring just two points in the first half, combined for 19 in the second.
"We just got comfortable with the lead and careless with the ball," McClellan said.
The game was billed as a matchup between two really young teams with a bevy of talent. Between Bruins Muhammad and Anderson and the Longhorns' Ridley, the game featured three of the top 11 prospects in the 2012 class, per Scout.com. And that doesn't count Adams, UCLA's leading scorer, who scored a game-high 18. Muhammad finished with 16 and Anderson had 11.
In fact, when you add in Ridley (14) and Felix (13), five of the six players who scored in double figures Saturday were freshmen. McClellan (12), a sophomore, was the only non-freshman to hit double digits. Ridley added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Afterward, UCLA coach Ben Howland was complimentary of the Longhorns, talking up Ridley, Felix and McClellan.
"They are probably one of the few teams in the country that's younger than us," Howland said. "So Rick's dealing with the same things in terms of the youth and the expectation. We're just happy to come away with this."
Texas will get a week off before hosting Texas State. That game is set to be tipped off at 7 p.m. CT.