Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, made a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to cut UCLA's lead to 62-60.
Before the ball was inbounded, Bruins freshman guard Jalen Hands was fouled. He made one of two free throws to increase the lead to 63-60.
Alvarado missed a 3-point attempt with three seconds remaining. Curtis Haywood III's 3-pointer after he grabbed the rebound fell short at the buzzer.
UCLA senior forward Thomas Welsh finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Hands, one of four new starters for the Bruins (1-0) this season, contributed 14 points.
Senior center Ben Lammers finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (0-1).
UCLA took its biggest lead of 11 points at 48-37 with 11:02 left in regulation after an 11-0 run fueled by a 3-point shot by Wilkes and a 3-point play by guard Aaron Holiday.
Georgia Tech, which never led after the 17:27 mark of the first half, pulled within 55-52 with 4:59 remaining when guard Brandon Alston made a layup.
The Bruins answered with Holiday scoring their next six points, capped by his layup for a 61-53 lead with 2:59 remaining.
UCLA played without freshmen LiAngelo Ball (brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball), Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who are being held by Chinese police in Hangzhou, a tourist town about 100 miles from Shanghai.
The three players were questioned this week on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store. They must remain in Hangzhou and await a decision by Chinese authorities on how to proceed.
NOTES: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was asked at halftime by ESPN if UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will join the Bruins when they return to Los Angeles on Saturday. "It's under investigation," Scott said of the players, who are being held in Hangzhou on a shoplifting charge. "We're hoping the Chinese authorities make a decision sooner than later. The most important thing right now is the welfare of those players." ESPN later reported that the freshmen will not return with the team and may remain in China for another week or two. ... UCLA senior Thomas Welsh had three blocked shots. He now ranks No. 4 on UCLA's career blocked shots list with 117, tying Lorenzo Mata Real's total. ... Welsh stands 73 blocks from tying UCLA's record of 188 held by Jelani McCoy. ... Georgia Tech last played a team ranked in the AP preseason Top 25 to open the season on Nov. 26, 1993, when the Yellow Jackets lost 80-70 to No. 5 Michigan in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Mass.