MANILA — The reigning hoops champions got a rude awakening at the start of their title defense campaign.
This is after Ateneo de Manila University was trounced by National University during their matchup at the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Saturday.
For Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin, what went wrong for the Katipunan-based squad was their lackadaisical performance.
“I think the words that mean so much to Ateneans, ‘One Big Fight,’ the word ‘fight,’ was left out today, and that’s inexcusable,” the four-time UAAP champion mentor said post-game.
“We should be — and we are — very disappointed in our performance.”
“We didn’t do a good job contesting their threes and finding the guys that we knew were good shooters. You’ve got to do those things against good teams. I think NU is a very good team, I think they played with a lot of composure today, and we didn’t.”
He then went on to credit the Bulldogs and head coach Jeff Napa, saying that they pushed all the right buttons and Ateneo just was not able to counter the plays that National U was running.
“NU created scenarios where we needed to adjust, and we just didn’t adjust enough,” Baldwin said.
“Credit Jeff, credit the NU team. I told everybody that’s a veteran team, that’s a very, very composed, solid basketball team, and you’re gonna see [that] they’re gonna be up there at the end of the season.”
And while the Blue Eagles will have the chance to bounce back against Napa and the Bulldogs in the second round, what Baldwin wants for Ateneo now is to get back to playing good team basketball.
They will have the chance to do that when they face their rivals De La Salle University on Wednesday at the same Pasay-based arena.
“We got a second shot at them in the second round, but we gotta play a lot of games to get there.”
“We prepare, we do our game plan for La Salle. Hopefully, our players exhibit a little more pride, and I think they will.”