The Bruins listened from the locker room as the band struck up its recognizable fight song in Pauley Pavilion.
Ben Howland nearly jumped through the roof.
It was the USC band, playing moments before the Trojans tipped off against host UCLA on Jan. 28.
The surprises keep coming for the first-year Bruin coach. Opposing bands in the Pacific 10 Conference are allowed into visiting arenas during rivalry games.
"And not only that, they are getting in free," Howland said incredulously at a news conference Tuesday.
The Trojan band thoroughly enjoyed itself during USC's 76-69 victory, even mocking Bruin fans as they exited.
Turnabout is fair play -- on the tuba and drums as well as on the court.
So an equally recognizable fight song will waft through the Sports Arena tonight.
"I would say our band will be there in full force," Howland said.
Tonight's game is for more than bragging rights. Only one game separates sixth-place UCLA (7-8) and seventh-place USC (6-9) in the conference standings.
Finishing seventh or eighth means drawing second-place Arizona or first-place Stanford in the Pac-10 tournament -- an almost certain first-round exit for UCLA, which never came close to beating either team in regular-season games.
However, finishing sixth could mean a matchup against Washington, currently the third-place team. UCLA has defeated Washington twice.
USC, meanwhile, would pull even with UCLA with a victory. And the Trojans would win a tiebreaker against the Bruins by virtue of having defeated a higher-seeded team -- Arizona.
"There are so many mathematical factors that go into it, we just need a win," Howland said.
Maybe the Bruins are just too honest.
How else to explain that they ranked last among 325 Division I teams in steals as of last week. UCLA averages only 4.4 steals.
"I'm not a proponent of gambling on defense," Howland said. "But when you are playing hard, rotating down and being active with your hands, you get steals. We should have more."
USC, by contrast, ranks 26th nationally and leads the Pac-10 with 9.3 steals a game.
The gag order was removed from USC's freshman twins Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart and the Seattle-reared duo admitted to not totally understanding the enmity between USC and UCLA.
"We considered U Dub [Washington] our main rival," Lodrick said. "But that's changed. We understand the 'SC-UCLA rivalry better now."
Said Rodrick: "We saw how everybody was into it when we played them the first time. You could tell with our fans and everyone at school."
UCLA at USC, 7:30, FSN
Site -- Sports Arena.
Radio -- KMPC 1540; XTRA 1150/690.
Records -- UCLA 11-12, 7-8 in Pac-10; USC 11-13, 6-9.
Update -- USC has won three in a row against UCLA, and a victory tonight would mark the Trojans' longest streak against their cross-town rivals since winning 42 in a row in 1932-1943.
Times staff writer Lonnie White contributed to this report.