La Salle coach Juno Sauler. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – There are many lessons to be learned by the De La Salle Green Archers after their loss to the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in their first game of the UAAP Season 77, according to head coach Juno Sauler.
The defending champions took a 13-point lead after the first period, but lacked execution in crunch time and could not stop FEU guard Mike Tolomia, who made big plays in crunch time to lead the Tamaraws to an 82-77 upset.
"We just have to find ways to learn (from this game)," Sauler told reporters after the game. "I think it was the first time that our bigs were double-teamed that way, so the passes out of the post, and the shots that we need to take after the ball gets in the post."
"Lots of lessons to be learned," he added.
Sauler said the three-pointers hit by Tolomia and veteran forward Carl Bryan Cruz in the final period made the difference in the game.
"Cruz had big shots, Tolomia had big shots. I'm not sure if all of them came in the fourth, but I'm sure (they were in) the second half," he said. "We also turned the ball over in the last minutes of the game, and that made the difference."
FEU head coach Nash Racela, for his part, said that despite the loss, La Salle remains the team to beat this season.
"Sa tingin ko, humatak lang ng kaunti si La Salle. They're still the team to beat. They're still the strongest team," said Racela. "Nagkataon lang ngayon, they weren't hitting their shots. 'Yung mga three-pointers nila, even free throws – they were missing."
"And yet, very close 'yung game, which just shows how powerful they are. Again, we're just so thankful na naka-lusot kami. It was actually a surprise sa akin," he added.
Racela also opined that the opening-day loss will help temper the hype placed on the Green Archers, after the UAAP coaches tabbed them the favorites to win the championship prior to the start of the season.
"Sa tingin ko, medyo hinatak ni Coach Juno ng kaunti. I think, kasi sobrang hype sa kanila, so sometimes as a coach, baka that's a ploy, para kapag natalo sila sa first game, then it dies down," Racela said. "Good thing kami 'yung kalaban. We're just thankful."