LAS VEGAS – Sound familiar? After closing the first half with a strong run, Ohio State came out flat in the second and paved its own way to an 86-73 loss to No. 2 UCLA as part of the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena. It's been a common thread for the Buckeyes this season, who have frequently been forced to overcome sluggish starts to halves.

LAS VEGAS – Sound familiar?

After closing the first half with a strong run, Ohio State came out flat in the second and paved its own way to an 86-73 loss to No. 2 UCLA as part of the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena. It's been a common thread for the Buckeyes this season, who have frequently been forced to overcome sluggish starts to halves.

But this afternoon against the Bruins, coach Thad Matta could at least point to the fact that the opening minutes of the second half weren't due to a lack of effort or energy.

They just missed shots.

"We had, in that stretch, three great looks," Matta said. "We couldn't draw it up better on the board and execute the looks that we had that didn't go down. I thought that tightened us up on the defensive end and we panicked a little bit."

Down 10 with2:37to play in the first half, the Buckeyes held the nation's top-ranked offense scoreless the rest of the way while getting a layup from Jae'Sean Tate, a three-pointer from Marc Loving and a transition layup from Kam Williams.

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"Just being connected," Tate said. "We shot pretty well in the first half, we were playing Buckeye defense and executing on offense."

Then, to open the second half, Tate missed a contested shot at the rim on the opening possession. Bryce Alford missed a three for UCLA, then Loving missed a three-pointer after hitting 3 of 4 in the first half. UCLA countered with a tough jumper in the paint by Isaac Hamilton, and at the other end Williams missed another three-pointer.

Three good looks, and no points to show for it. And as the game went on, Matta said plays like those impacted his team in other ways.

Down the stretch, senior forward Marc Loving said the Buckeyes were lacking something.

"I felt like it was just a sense of urgency," he said. "Our huddles weren't as energetic and vocal as they normally were and I felt like it carried over onto the court in certain instances where the sense of urgency wasn't there and the loose balls ended up bouncing their way and the long rebounds. A mental lapse and we'd end up turning the ball over two or three times in a row."

Like Matta, Tate expressed his frustration with the situation but hesitated to call this performance a reversion to early-season problems.

"I wouldn't say step backward," he said. "I would say that we know that we didn't play to the best of our ability and we've just got to learn from that … figure out how to stop that from happening over and over again and get ready for the gameon Tuesday."

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy