In light of the disappointment of the game as it was happening and the reversal of the team’s play since, UCLA’s 66-57 loss to Montana on Dec. 5 had all the makings of a classic let-down game.
Forget, for a moment, that the let-down came after a loss – albeit a tough one, a one-point, last-second defeat at No. 4 Kansas – but the Bruins admit now that they simply overlooked the Grizzlies, who danced on the Pauley Pavilion floor.
It won’t be happening again.
Not against Montana State.
Not this year.
The Bruins host the Bobcats tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion and they’re blaming the entire state for the Grizzly embarrassment.
“We know that if we want to be a good team, if we want to be an NCAA contender, that’s going to have to be our mindset,” said sophomore small forward Tyler Honeycutt, who leads five players in double figures at 15.5 points per game. “We can’t just always play to the level of our competition. That’s going to end up hurting us down the road. We just have to stay focused and know how good we can be and take that out on the opponent every night.”
That starts with the Bobcats, who sport a 6-5 record, albeit with wins over NCAA powerhouses Minot State and Johnson & Wales (Colo.).
UCLA is not about to underestimate another team, though, not with a three-game winning streak, not coming off its best performance of the season, an 86-79 win over No. 16 BYU at the Honda Center in the Wooden Classic on Saturday.
If the win over the Cougars was the season high so far, the loss to Montana was the season low, and the Bruins haven’t forgotten.
“We didn’t know much about them, and they came in here and we didn’t have the energy,” said sophomore forward Reeves Nelson, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week after his 23-point performance against Jimmer Fredette and the Cougars. “They took advantage of that. It was a perfect storm for something like that to happen. It won’t happen again.”