But the Cougars could not take advantage.
Despite another superlative performance by junior center Brock Motum, who made 9 of 17 shots en route to a game-high 25 points, WSU struggled offensively down the stretch. Motum only scored six points after halftime as the Bruins (13-10, 6-5) switched to a zone defense about midway through the second half.
"I felt like we could have got the ball to Brock more," said WSU junior guard Mike Ladd in a postgame radio interview.
Ladd acknowledged that UCLA made that challenging, though. WSU coach Ken Bone agreed.
"We still scored out of it, but not like in the first half against their man (scheme)," he said. "The way it was setup, we were not able to isolate Brock as well. If it affects Brock, it affects us."
But that was not the only offensive issue. The Bruins scored 18 points on the Cougars' 15 turnovers. WSU only scored three points on 10 UCLA turnovers.
"That's on me," WSU coach Ken Bone said. "Twenty-three games into the year, we shouldn't be as careless with the ball."
Perhaps none was as glaring as the final minute of the first half when the Cougars appeared poised to settle for the final shot with a 34-27 advantage. But instead of possibly extending that lead into double figures, Bruins guard Lazeric Jones stole the ball and scored a layup while being fouled with 23 seconds left in the half. He missed the free throw, but WSU's advantage was cut to 34-29 at half.
"Completing passes and catching passes were a big problem for us," Ladd said. "They get into the passing lanes pretty well."
AFTER 15 LEAD CHANGES and four ties, UCLA took the lead for good, 52-51, when guard Jerime Anderson found David Wear for a layup with eight minutes remaining.
The Cougars went scoreless for 5:59 minutes before senior forward Abe Lodwick made a 3-pointer to cut their deficit to 58-54 with 3:30 remaining.
After that, the script was familiar to one WSU fans have seen unfolded many times since the Cougars last beat the Bruins at home, 67-56, on Feb. 6, 1993.
WSU gained some momentum when UCLA center Josh Smith, who made 8 of 9 shots en route to 19 points, fouled out with 1:42 remaining.
The Cougars, who outrebounded the Bruins 37-30, negated their deficit in the post and also held UCLA, which entered the game shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc, to 4 of 14 on 3-pointers.
"I like the sense of urgency to get to their shooters," Bone said.
But WSU could not counter. After making his first trio of 3-pointers, Lodwick missed two open shots from beyond the arc in the final 80 seconds.
The Cougars had another opportunity when Jones missed a one-and-one free throw with 30 seconds left. But the ball slipped through the hands of at least two WSU players before Anderson recovered it and was fouled.
The Bruins hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 28 seconds to prevent secure the victory even as junior point guard Reggie Moore made a pair of 3-pointers.
WSU next plays at 7 p.m. Thursday at Oregon State.