MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo coach Bo Perasol took responsibility for the Blue Eagles' deflating loss to the National University (NU) Bulldogs on Sunday, admitting that he was unable to sufficiently explain to his team the importance of that particular game.
The Blue Eagles were coming off a huge victory against the University of the East (UE) but were promptly brought back down to earth by the Bulldogs, who built a 22-4 advantage in the first period and answered Ateneo's rally in the fourth quarter with an even bigger run of their own.
"We dug a hole too deep for us to climb out this time," Perasol told reporters after the game. "It was on me."
"I think I didn't put in the big picture enough for them to be challenged, to say that this game was really important for us to win," he added. "I tried, but it seemed that we started really, really bad. Defensively we just coasted there, and offensively, we didn't move that well."
"We can't do that against a team like NU. They're too good for that."
Perasol acknowledged that Ateneo's string of come-from-behind victories in the first round of the tournament may have given the Blue Eagles confidence in their ability to rally from deficits.
"I told them that this second round is going to be a different story, because everybody knows what we have been doing, and we can't do that every time," said Perasol.
Perasol again expressed concern about Ateneo's poor start, something that the team was able to avoid against UE last week – a game that they won.
"We need to do that every time, if we really want to make a better ending to this season," Perasol said of his players' strong start against the Red Warriors.
For a while, it seemed Ateneo was going to successfully mount a comeback, as they trimmed the lead to five points early in the fourth quarter behind an eight-point run by center Alfonso Gotladera.
"We tried to get back, but (NU was) too disciplined and too classy to give up," Perasol said. "So hindi nangyari 'yung run na gusto naming mangyari."
NU remains the only team that Ateneo has not beaten in Perasol's tenure as head coach. The Blue Eagles lost in the first round as well, although by a smaller margin.
"We knew their strengths (but) they got their way against us," Perasol said of the Bulldogs. "That's what happened there. They did a great job of planning against us also."