La Salle head coach Juno Sauler. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University head coach Juno Sauler called on the Green Archers to improve their mental toughness -- especially defensively -- and be more consistent after the team dropped its second consecutive game in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament.
The defending champions dropped to a 0-2 hole and were burned repeatedly by not only Kiefer Ravena, but even Ateneo role players like Von Pessumal and Alfonso Gotladera, on their way to losing 86-97.
It was their second consecutive defeat after dropping their first game to Far Eastern University, 77-82.
"There were some instances when it showed that we knew what we were doing," said Sauler, "But there were also some instances wherein it seemed that we were lost."
"It's really (about) trying to find a way to play consistently for forty minutes," he stressed.
La Salle was the better team at the start, racing off to a 13-4 lead and getting good production from versatile forward Jason Perkins. But in the second period, they could not find ways to stop Pessumal, who drained jumper after jumper.
In the second half, it was Ravena who torched La Salle, as the guard found himself open again and again from beyond the arc.
"They shot very well from the floor, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we still had a two-point lead, and they pulled away in the fourth because of those big shots by Ravena," said Sauler.
"We just have to toughen up a little bit more on the defensive end," Sauler said when asked how his team needs to respond after two straight defeats. "Just like in the first game, where we had Tolomia beating us with three-point shots, it was the same thing today -- Ravena already had one or two."
"It's just our defensive mental toughness. That's what we need to improve on, and trying to be consistent on the offensive end, knowing what it is that we're trying to accomplish," he added.
Although they were the much bigger team, La Salle could not use their size advantage and was shockingly out-rebounded, 51-50.
"That's one thing that we have to fix also. Too many easy points, and they were getting offensive rebounds so we have to take care of that department also," said Sauler.
They also need to find a balance offensively, between going to their big men and to their guards, said the coach. Against Ateneo, Perkins exploded for 25 points -- a career-high -- but fellow bigs like Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres were rendered mostly ineffective by the physical Ateneo defense.
"It's just a balance between attacking with the bigs and attacking with the guards," Sauler said. "We have to find that balance. I think Jason played well today, he scored 25. So just that balance between going inside and scoring from the outside."
"We can't go inside on every possession, and we also can't go outside every possession," he added.