The UCLA Bruins will tip off against the Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders at the Los Angeles Sports Arena tonight at 8:00 pm PST. The game is part of the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, matching up teams from the Island group with teams from the Mainland group. As part of the Island group, UCLA will move on to the tournament in Maui no matter the outcome of this game.
That's good news for the Bruins, who have started their basketball season hitting sour notes. Things were pretty bad losing to the Loyola Marymount Lions 69-58 to open the season at the Sports Arena. They got worse in the days following, as Ben Howland announced he had suspended junior forward Reeves Nelson indefinitely due to attitude issue that have surfaced during the past few weeks.
While MTSU may not roll off the tongue easily, they are not to be taken lightly. Last year's Sun Belt champions are on a two game win streak to begin the season, featuring a win over Austin Peay (who take on the #23 California Golden Bears tonight) and then a win over LMU two days after LMU beat UCLA for the first time since the second World War. MTSU will host the Mainland group in a two day tournament at the Murphy Center before the Island group has their tournament in Maui.
This is the first ever meeting between UCLA and MTSU. In fact, MTSU only has played three games against current Pac 12 teams going 0-1 against Oregon State and 1-1 against Colorado. The only connection between these two teams is MTSU assistant coach Monte Towe who was on the 1974 NC State team that knocked the Bruins out of the tourney and a shot at their eight consecutive national title.
Senior guard Jerime Anderson has served his suspension and will be available. Sophmore center Anthony Stover returned to limited practice this week, but will not be available. Reeves Nelson is set to have his status reevaluated later in the week.