|National University center Emmanuel Mbe grabs a rebound in the Bulldogs' game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles last June 30, 2013 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Bo Perasol's tenure as head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles got off to a disappointing start as the five-time defending champions were beaten by pre-season favorites National University (NU) in their first game of the UAAP season.
With star guard Kiefer Ravena hampered by an ankle injury, the Blue Eagles struggled to manufacture points and resorted to bombing away from long range against the Bulldogs' defense last Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
A late rally sparked by veteran guards Nico Elorde and Juami Tiongson made the final score more respectable as Ateneo lost 64-54.
"I think, to put it simply, we were really outplayed," Perasol said frankly after the game. "The absence of Kiefer was a big gap for us, but I think that it's still not an excuse."
"I was hoping that some of us will be able to step up, but I was not able to get the numbers that I wanted from some of the other players," he added.
Perasol observed that the remaining Blue Eagles were unable to adjust, especially as it was the first time that they had played without Ravena.
"When we were playing in the summer leagues, Kiefer was always with us. Malaking bagay na wala 'yung leader nila. I think this is the first game na wala siya," Perasol said, adding that Ravena's absence affected not just their offense and defense but also their poise.
"Kung talagang wala siya, they would know how to adjust, but this is the first game," he said. "So I don't think I can be too hard on my team."
"It's my failure as a coach not to get my best out of them also," he said.
Perasol did commend his players for their spirited rally late in the game, crediting it to their "usual Ateneo character."
But the comeback, built on three consecutive triples by Elorde and Tiongson, fell short for the Blue Eagles as they lost to the Bulldogs for the first time since September 2007.