Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena (R) is blocked by NU's Joel Betayene (L). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – After National University (NU) booked a tremendous victory over Ateneo last weekend, head coach Eric Altamirano called on the Bulldogs to keep their focus and remain sharp as they continue their push for a Final Four slot.
NU fired on all cylinders on both offense and defense against Ateneo, which surprised even Altamirano as he admitted that his team usually relies more on their defense.
"We had a good offensive game, which is not normal for us. Usually we strive on our defense, but I think today we were able to do our job on offense," he said after their 76-66 victory.
Five players scored in double figures for NU, and Altamirano said this type of balanced scoring is something they need more of in future games.
"We need all the help that we can get," he said. "Today, there were times were Troy (Rosario) stepped up, there was also part of the game were Alfred (Aroga) stepped up, and Glenn (Khobuntin) as well."
"So I think for us to really beat the tough teams, we need everybody. We need everybody. Hindi pwedeng may absent. We cannot afford that," he emphasized.
"Hindi kami ganoong kalakas katulad ng ibang teams, so importante sa amin is we're on one page, and everybody has to step up."
The win over Ateneo gave NU a 7-3 record, tying the Blue Eagles for third and fourth place in the league standings. It also marked the second consecutive season that they swept Ateneo in the elimination rounds, although Altamirano downplayed its significance.
"Ang importante is, we need all the wins that we can get this second round," he said. "Alam namin how important the second round is."
"Every game is important," he stressed. "We cannot take a day off in our games. Kailangan talaga, we have to be sharp, we have to be prepared mentally and physically."
NU will next face University of the East (UE), which is making a late push for a Final Four berth.
"UE is kind of like Ateneo," Altamirano observed. "They thrive on the press, they thrive on making it hard for you to execute, so we have to be ready for that."