MANILA, Philippines – A familiar problem is cropping up for University of the East (UE) in UAAP Season 80: the veterans expected to lead the team are not producing at a high level.
It was an issue that plagued the Red Warriors' campaign in Season 79, when players like Renz Palma, Paul Varilla, and RR de Leon underperformed for most of their campaign, submitting uneven performances through 14 games.
In their first three games of Season 80, the same problem is once again hounding UE, and coach Derrick Pumaren knows it.
"I've told the boys that it's happening again this season," Pumaren said after the Red Warriors absorbed a 71-84 loss to University of the Philippines (UP) on Sunday. "Guys who are supposed to contribute, guys who can carry us, are not performing."
"I will not name names, but they will know if they are performing or not," he added.
Clark Derige has been the most impressive UE player so far, as the forward is averaging 16.0 points on 51.6% shooting in just 20.5 minutes of action per game.
But Alvin Pasaol, who was expected to be UE's main man this season, has mostly disappointed. He is still norming 13 points per game, a two-point improvement from his Season 79 average, but he is shooting only 31.7% from the field. In three games, Pasaol has connected on only two of 18 three-pointers, and to make matters worse, he has been unable to control his fouls.
Against UP, Pasaol played less than 14 minutes, scoring 12 points on five-of-15 shooting.
Players like Philip Manalang and Nick Abanto, who also played long minutes for UE last year, have been erratic to start the season as well.
Pumaren also criticized his team's response to UP's torrid third quarter, when Paul Desiderio single-handedly outscored the Red Warriors, 16-7, to help the Fighting Maroons take control.
"I think Desiderio killed us in the third quarter, and we lost our pace," said Pumaren.
Instead of regrouping, however, the Red Warriors "simply ran away from what we were supposed to do."
"Instead of fighting, instead of competing, we just put our heads down and let them run over us," Pumaren added.
Pumaren can only hope that the Red Warriors will start to live up to their potential sooner rather than later.
"'Yung last minutes namin (vs. UP), we were still fighting," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to turn that into something positive."
UE will return to action on Sunday against Ateneo de Manila University.
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