MANILA, Philippines – There is little room for error for the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors as they try to get back in the Final Four race of the UAAP Season 77 tournament, according to head coach Derrick Pumaren.
The Warriors stumbled in the first round as they lost four consecutive games, often in heartbreaking fashion, but recently got back on track with win over University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines (UP).
They now have a 4-4 win-loss record, good for a share of fifth place along with the Growling Tigers.
"We know that we are still behind the upper half," said Pumaren after their win against UP last weekend. "As I've told the guys, we are trying to catch up to three and four right now."
"Games will be very important. We gotta take games quarter by quarter, game by game. UP is the first step. We got over the hump against UST after losing four straight games, and we needed this win," he added.
In their four losses, the Red Warriors showed an inability to protect their leads and lost steam in the fourth quarter after taking control early in the game. They were also unable to take advantage of the turnovers they forced, and were often prone to committing careless miscues themselves.
Mistakes like these cannot happen in the second round, said Pumaren, especially with six teams all fighting hard for the semi-final spots.
"We can't afford to make mistakes," Pumaren stressed. "We are trying to catch up. Every time we make mistakes, it's like we're digging our own grave."
"Very important ang games namin," he said.
UE takes the next steps in their campaign against Ateneo on Wednesday. In the first round, they lost to the Blue Eagles in overtime after taking a 21-point lead in the second quarter.
"We cannot be intimidated" against Ateneo, said Pumaren. "They're a top team, and we're number five right now. We should be the aggressor. That's the mentality of the team right now because we're trying to catch up. We cannot relax."