Eight minutes into the UCLA-Cal game, and I’m sitting there wondering if the Bruins would reach 100 points. At that instant I should have known the Bruins were in trouble.

UCLA is not the type of team that can play at such a fast pace. They don’t have enough good scorers or jump shooters. So although they built a 22-8 lead early in the first half against Cal, the Bruins were playing the wrong type of basketball. They were playing too fast.

Boy, did it show in the final 32 minutes. Cal outscored UCLA 64-36 in that stretch and actually cruised to a 72-58 victory. After its hot start, UCLA made just 12 of its 31 field goal attempts (38 percent).

The Bruins became an easy team to beat. They weren’t selecting good shots, and they weren’t creating any second-chance opportunities.

Afterward, coach Ben Howland seemed especially frustrated with all the “quick bad shots” that his team attempted.

“It’s something we have talked about in the past (after losses to Stanford and USC),” Howland said. “It was disappointing that we fell back into that mode.”

Howland likes to talk about the team’s Jan. 30 win at Oregon State as a model for the type of offense he wants his team to run this year. In that victory, the Bruins played extremely patiently, attempting only 35 shots total.

Maybe it was the hot start, or maybe all the adrenaline that comes in a game where first place is on the line, but either way the Bruins clearly forgot the need to play patiently.

Howland pointed to a crucial possession where freshman Tyler Honeycutt rushed a difficult “dippy-do” shot. The Bruins were down 50-45 at the time, with about 10 minutes remaining.

“We’re going so fast that we end up taking an out of control layup,” Howland said.

Pretty much everyone deserves some of the blame ““ except senior guard Michael Roll, who sank nine of his 14 shot attempts. But the one Bruin who stood out to me was senior Nikola Dragovic.

Dragovic is a limited player. He can’t really penetrate off the dribble, and he struggles finishing around the hoop. So when Dragovic is not hitting 3-pointers, it’s hard for him to help the Bruins.

That was what I saw Saturday. Dragovic missed all four of his 3-point attempts, and finished the day shooting 1-8, with no points in the paint.

“(Dragovic) obviously didn’t have a good game today,” Howland said.

He picked the wrong day.

This loss really crushes UCLA. I will now say for sure that the Bruins have no chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. None.

The Bruins will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2004-2005 season (Howland’s second in Westwood), unless they win the Pac-10 tournament.

And that scenario feels more like fantasy after Saturday’s clunker. The Bruins let a big lead slip away for the second time in their last four games. Remember that game at Oregon?

The Bruins had an 11-point lead in Eugene before a big rally from the Ducks. They eventually fell in overtime 71-66.

After that game I asked Howland what was the main thing he wanted his team to take away from the defeat.

“Not to let up,” he said.

His point was that even when they build a big lead, this team has to remember to play smart. Players have to play patient basketball, they have to wait for the good shots.

After Saturday’s defeat, I can only guess those are lessons that this Bruin team is still trying to learn.

E-mail Allen at sallen@media.ucla.edu.