Big tourney draws near, but Bruins focused only on Irvine

LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins have one high-profile game -- and possibly a second -- coming up next week, but you won't catch them looking past the UC Irvine Anteaters on Tuesday night.

The Bruins don’t want to repeat their mistake from last season, when they got caught focusing beyond the Loyola Marymount Lions and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in anticipation of the Maui Invitational. UCLA lost both of those games, then went 1-2 (falling to the Michigan Wolverines and Kansas Jayhawks) in Maui … and never really recovered. The Bruins started the season ranked No. 17, but did not make the NCAA tournament.

This season, the Bruins are No. 13 and have a game Monday against the Georgetown Hoyas in the Legends Classic in New York and -- depending on the Day 1 results of four-team tourney -- could be matched with the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers on Tuesday.

But UCLA is thinking only about UC Irvine.

"We lost some games against teams that we probably should have beat by looking ahead," forward Travis Wear said. "We’ve talked about it this season multiple times, that we have to take every game as it comes and not look ahead to anybody."

That means Irvine (1-0) will have the full attention of UCLA (1-0) when the teams meet at 8:30 p.m. in the second men's game in the revamped Pauley Pavilion. This game won't have the pomp and circumstance of Pauley's opening night Friday, when the Bruins defeated Indiana State 86-59; and that may be a good thing.

The Bruins had a sluggish start in that game. They made only one of their first eight field goal attempts before settling in for the rout. Coach Ben Howland said the rock concert-like pregame show, which included elaborate player introductions and the national anthem performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, got his team a little too pumped up.

"They were all a little bit amped up and nervous and hyped and excited, which is natural," Howland said. "There’s been a lot of anticipation for that first game. It’s a big deal. It’s the first opening of a building. It’s a historic occasion. Once we started to settle down, things got going a little better."

Without the hype of the ceremony, the Bruins say they should be a little bit more relaxed against the Anteaters, who are coming off an impressive 78-64 victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack.

"Just being a normal game, not the opening night, I think we’re going to come out and be more comfortable and do what we have to do," Wear said.

What they have to do is play with a sense of urgency from the beginning, regardless that it’s against a mid-major team everyone expects UCLA to defeat.

"You saw that Indiana State was testing us in the first half," Wear said. "We came out pressing a little, but we know every game is important. We’re building our tournament resume, even though it’s early in the season."