Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena (R) is blocked by NU's Joel Betayene (L). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo guard Kiefer Ravena on Sunday expressed his disappointment following the Blue Eagles' 66-76 loss to National University (NU), which saw them start out flat and then come up short in the final quarter.
NU raced to a 22-4 start in the opening period against the stunned Blue Eagles, and then showed poise in the fourth quarter when Ateneo inevitably made a run and cut the deficit to only five points. The Bulldogs responded with a huge scoring run of their own, and it was Ateneo who was unable to answer.
"Bad start lang, I guess," a subdued Ravena told reporters after the game. "You can't start out that way against a team like NU."
"I've been under (NU) Coach Eric (Altamirano) before, and I know how he wants his team to be really composed. So having a start like that and giving NU confidence, mahirap talaga 'yun," he added.
It is not the first time that Ateneo had started a game on the wrong foot this season; in the first round of the tournament, they had shown an ability to work their way from huge deficits, including a memorable overtime win over University of the East where they overhauled a 21-point hole.
But in the second round, their comebacks have been falling short. They were down by 13 points against rivals La Salle in their first assignment of the second round, and although they worked their way back in the game, they still lost. Ateneo's only win of the second round was against UE – incidentally, a game that saw them start on a strong note.
"Nag-d-dwell talaga ako on how we started," Ravena admitted. "Looking back, that was the story of the game. We can't let a team shoot 75%."
"We can't have that mindset of always catching up in the end," he stressed. "That's a very, very, very bad habit. We have to focus on how to start out strong (in our next game) against UST."
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol also expressed his concern regarding his team's penchant for poor starts, and agreed that their comeback wins in the first round may have contributed to that mentality.
"I told them that this second round is going to be a different story," said Perasol. "Everybody knows what we have been doing, and we can't do that every time."
"The only time we started well was against UE, and we won that game. All the games that we had, we really did not start well. We are finding ways on how we can address that," he added.
Ravena said part of the blame should be on the starters – including himself.
"It would have been a different story if we didn't start out that way. 'Yun blame talaga is with the starters, kasi imbis na we set the tone positively, naging negative pa," he said.
"We're a young team, and what the young players see with the starters, siyempre 'yun 'yung ilalabas nila. So we take full responsibility for that," he added.
With the loss, Ateneo tumbled from a tie for first place to a tie for third place, and Ravena said the Blue Eagles cannot afford any more missteps with just four games to go in the season.
"From now on, every game is a must-win for us, given how the standings are," he said. "It's going to be hard. We had a very tough three-game stretch with La Salle, UE and NU. We lost two, and now we can't lose any games anymore."