MANILA, Philippines – Thanks in part to Alvin Pasaol's record-setting performance against De La Salle University last Wednesday, University of the East coach Derrick Pumaren is optimistic that the Red Warriors can finally book their first win of UAAP Season 80 on Saturday.
Pasaol etched his name in the league's record books with a 49-point performance against the Green Archers, becoming the first UAAP player to breach the 40-point mark since 2002. However, it was not enough as La Salle still claimed a 106-100 win, sending UE to its sixth consecutive defeat.
For Pumaren, however, UE's game against La Salle marked the first time all season that he saw an inspired effort from the Red Warriors. Pasaol, of course, was on fire all game long, but UE also rallied from a 25-point deficit in the fourth quarter and even came as close as six points late.
"Even though we lost, I'm really proud of the way we played," Pumaren said on Wednesday night. "The team that I've been missing noong first five games namin, I saw it today."
"We're down by 25 points, I think that was at 100-75, and I told them to dig deep, that we have got to get something really positive out of this game," he added.
Pumaren was delighted that the Red Warriors responded to his challenge.
"We just got to go down fighting," he said. "They responded and we were able to catch up."
The team's collective effort, highlighted by Pasaol's epic scoring outburst, is a huge boost to UE ahead of its showdown against University of Santo Tomas on Saturday — a game that Pumaren jokingly called the "finals."
"We need something heading into the finals for Saturday," said the veteran coach, referring to both squads' identical 0-6 records.
Pumaren drew more laughs from reporters when he said: "Ni-request pa yata na i-preliminary kami sa Ateneo-La Salle sa Sunday."
Turning serious, Pumaren noted that while the Growling Tigers are also winless they have been playing quite well.
"I think they are stronger than their record," he acknowledged.
"I think we can use this positive as a springboard getting in and playing UST, and hopefully, we can translate that effort and that sacrifice that we've been doing into a W on Saturday."
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