TUCSON, Ariz. -- LaVar Ball, the father of UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, told a Tucson radio station Saturday, "My boy don't lose to people two times in a row."
Lonzo and the Bruins proved him right -- again.
In a Pac-12 showdown featuring the best rivalry in the West over the past three decades, No. 5 UCLA avenged last month's loss in Pauley Pavilion by dealing No. 4 Arizona a rare 77-72 home defeat when the Wildcats air-balled a late 3-point attempt Saturday night.
The Bruins (26-3, 13-3 Pac-12) have also avenged losses to Oregon and USC this month during a seven-game winning streak.
"That doesn't happen very often," UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
"That's probably what I'm most pleased and most proud of our guys. You lose at Oregon, at home to Arizona and at USC, and before we get to the Pac-12 tournament, we've avenged all those losses. Our guys were really focused today. It was 40 minutes of very good basketball."
The Bruins led by 11 with under four minutes to go, but the Wildcats made a late run, sparked by a 3-pointer by guard Allonzo Trier. Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen made two free throws with 29.2 seconds left to make the score 75-72.
UCLA guard Aaron Holiday missed the front end of a one-and-one with 22 seconds remaining, but Arizona guard Kadeem Allen air-balled a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. Guard Bryce Alford finished up with two free throws with 1.2 seconds left.
Arizona (26-4, 15-2) lost at McKale Center for just the second time in the past 72 home games. The Wildcats had won 21 games in a row at home.
"We get a win at Arizona and at Kentucky in the same year," Alford said. "That's pretty special."
Arizona dropped into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon. The Wildcats can clinch a share of the title next Saturday at Arizona State, although the Ducks would get the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament based on a head-to-head victory.
Arizona and UCLA are on track for a rematch in the tourney semifinals.
"I think they have a chance to do special things, but so do we," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "One game doesn't shape a season."
Alford scored 15 points to lead a balanced scoring effort and Ball had eight assists, but it was UCLA's interior game that really made the difference, a reversal of when Arizona won 96-85 on Jan. 21 in Pauley Pavilion.
On Saturday, UCLA had a 19-4 edge in second-chance points and had 13 offensive rebounds to Arizona's five.
The Bruins entered Saturday as the nation's highest-scoring team, but Steve Alford credited defense for the February surge.
"Everybody wants to talk about our offense, but the bottom line is we're a really good basketball team," Alford said. "There are teams out there that aren't close to what we are offensively. I get it. But I really, honestly, believe our guys have improved on this end in the month of February.
"They have been terrific all season long of getting through things and getting better."
For UCLA, center Thomas Welsh scored 14 points. Holiday and forward T.J. Leaf had 12. Ball scored 11.
Trier, a sophomore, scored a career-high 28 points, but he didn't have enough help against UCLA's 3-2 zone. The Wildcats shot 5 of 20 from 3-point range.
"They went to a 3-2 zone and we just didn't execute. We didn't," Miller said. "We settled for 3s, we passed it around the perimeter, we lost our purpose. ... And the rebounding is disappointing. It hasn't happened to us in a long time. I really credit UCLA."
The Wildcats went nearly seven minutes in the second half with just two points, allowing the Bruins to turn a five-point deficit into a 62-55 lead. They eventually built a big enough cushion to survive missing six of their final seven shots.
"I thought our board play in the second half was huge," Alford said. "What we did defensively ... we've been getting better."
-- This was the first meeting between Arizona and UCLA when both teams were ranked in the AP top 5.
-- UCLA freshman G Lonzo Ball has 219 assists; the most ever for a freshman in the Pac-12 is 229, set by Oregon State's Gary Payton in 1986-87.
-- Arizona honored G Kadeem Allen after the game on Senior Day. Allen spent three years with the Wildcats, including a redshirt season after transferring from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
-- U.S. Congresswomen Martha McSally sang the national anthem before the game.
-- Earlier in the day, Arizona announced the hiring of athletic director Dave Heeke, who previously held the same position at Central Michigan. Arizona's previous AD, Greg Byrne, accepted a position at Alabama in January.