MANILA, Philippines - Prowling at the top halfway through the competition, University of Santo Tomas looks to carry over its fierce form into the second round of UAAP Season 75 beginning today in what it intends as a "payback" game against Far Eastern U at the MOA Arena.
The Tigers (6-1) are enjoying their best start since a sweep of the first round back in 1999, winning all but one of their matches. The Tams (5-2) accounted for this lone defeat so far, a 73-72 come-from-behind victory on opening day.
UST-FEU collides at 4 p.m. after the 2 p.m. encounter between National U (4-3) and Adamson (1-6).
"The second round will be a lot tougher so we have to stay sharp to become a contender for the No. 1," said UST coach Pido Jarencio in Filipino, expecting his wards to respond well to the challenges from the rest of the field.
"I think the boys' attitude will change when the second round comes. For us, we're back to zero-zero. I told them not to think about the standings but about our opponents, how to beat them. We'll take it one game at a time, like our next game against FEU. It must be payback time for us," he said.
The first time they met, the Tams overturned the Tigers' double-digit spread, escaping with a one-point triumph. Since then, UST has swept its next six, including come-from-behind victories over co-leader Ateneo (6-1), La Salle (4-3) and National U (4-3).
"We have to match their (Tigers') intensity. We know they will be determined to get back at us and their confidence are high, being undefeated in their last six games, while we're trying to bounce back from a loss to Ateneo," FEU coach Bert Flores said in Filipino.
Flores' main concern on the UST side is Karim Abdul, who paces the MVP race with 81.7143 statistical points built around averages of 17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks.
"He (Abdul) is UST's main man now. He couldn't be stopped, as shown in their win against Adamson. Our big men should work extra hard to stop him," Flores said.
The FEU mentor is pretty satisfied with his crew's showing so far. "Performance is okay. We just have to improve our execution, particularly in the endgame because that's what's lacking in the two games that we lost," he said.
Jeric Teng (16 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg) rejoins UST after a three-game absence due to MCL injury.
"With Jeric Teng back, the team will be more complete, tougher for the second round," said Jarencio.