MANILA, Philippines – A tentative start, a dumb mistake, and a woeful performance at the charity stripe combined to doom University of the East (UE) in their UAAP Season 80 game against Far Eastern University (FEU) on Wednesday.
This, according to Red Warriors coach Derrick Pumaren, who watched in disappointment as his team gave up 28 points in the first quarter and was forced to play catch-up basketball the rest of the way.
"We played tentative basketball in the first quarter," Pumaren said in the wake of the 83-90 defeat. "The game is 40 minutes, and we were able to contain them to 62 points in the next three quarters."
"But we let them score 28 points in the first quarter," he rued. "We didn't play our game. We played tentative basketball. It's like we were playing without confidence at the start, as if we didn't know what we're doing out there."
FEU outscored UE, 28-11, in the opening frame, with big man Prince Orizu tallying 10 points by his lonesome. The Red Warriors managed only three field goals in the opening frame.
They outscored the Tamaraws, 72-62, in the next three frames, but the 17-point deficit at the end of the first quarter proved too much to overcome for the Red Warriors.
UE continued to shoot itself in the foot in the second quarter. They were already clawing their way back, down by just eight points, 25-33, with 4:10 left off a putback by Nick Abanto when the guard was called for a technical foul for taunting.
"We already had the momentum in the second quarter," said Pumaren. "Then Abanto, I don't know what decision he did there, na-taunting. So nag-pull away ang FEU, and we had to work our way back again."
"We were able to work our way back, but we just made a dumb decision," he added.
Remarkably, the Red Warriors managed to work their way back once again, and were down by just seven points, 73-80, with still over six minutes left after a Mark Olayon bucket. Olayon could have further cut into the deficit as he was also fouled on the play, but he could not complete the and-1.
Olayon's missed freebie sapped UE's momentum, and FEU went on to lead by double-digits again.
"We have not shot well in the free throws," said Pumaren. "We had stretches where we could have cut down the lead and kept it close, but we missed shots."
As a team, the Red Warriors attempted a whopping 43 free throws, but missed 11 of them in what turned out to be a seven-point loss. They have only been shooting 65.2% at the stripe so far in the tournament.
It is still early in the season, and Pumaren is still relatively upbeat. But he warned that the Red Warriors need to show better focus in their upcoming games if they hope to finally get on the win column.
"We have to have continuous concentration on what we're trying to achieve, or if we're trying to catch up," he said.
The Red Warriors return to action on Sunday against University of the Philippines.
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