MANILA, Philippines – La Salle had coach Juno Sauler pointed to defensive breakdowns in the second half as the reason for the Green Archers' 70-74 setback to the Far Eastern University Tamaraws last Wednesday in the UAAP.
The loss ended the Green Archers' seven-game winning streak and sent them to a three-way tie for second to fourth places along with Ateneo and National University.
"We gave up too many points in the second half. We weren't that solid defensively in the second half," admitted Sauler.
After limiting FEU to only 26 points in the first half, La Salle allowed the Tamaraws to score 26 points in the third quarter alone.
"We should have defended better in the second half, especially in the third. I think we gave up 26 (points), which was their output in the first half, and then we gave up 26 in the third quarter," he said.
Sauler said that more than individual defense, it was on their team defense that they should have done a better job on.
"It's hard to stop (Mike) Tolomia, it's hard to stop (Mac) Belo one-on-one, so we try to put up the best match-ups we can, and at the same time, work on our team defense," he noted.
Despite their defensive breakdowns, however, the Green Archers still had a chance in the endgame when they were down by only one point, 70-71, before sending Tolomia to the line.
After making the first, Tolomia missed his second free throw, but no one from La Salle moved to rebound and the FEU guard was able to rebound his own miss and score a game-clinching lay-up.
"We should have been able to get that one (rebound)," Sauler said. "Apparently, there was miscommunication on the part of the five guys inside the court on who to box out, and then we missed an assignment on the shooter."
It was a costly defeat for the Green Archers. A win would have put them in solo first – a position now occupied by the Tamaraws. Instead, they are neck-and-neck with two other teams with just four games to go in the elimination round.
"The UAAP is like that," Sauler acknowledged. "Every win, every loss – it will bring you up three to four spots. It's a big difference, that's why every game is important."