MANILA, Philippines -- There were plenty of encouraging signs in University of the East's (UE) loss to National University last Sunday, Red Warriors coach Jack Santiago said.
UE absorbed a 77-70 loss to the Bulldogs in their first game of UAAP Season 85. This was their 15th straight defeat this year, having lost all of their assignments in Season 84.
Santiago acknowledged afterward that the result was "bad," but he was pleased with the effort displayed by the Red Warriors. UE trailed by just one point, 53-52, at the end of the third quarter before the Bulldogs seized control in the fourth.
"Actually, I'm so happy with the boys. Although we came up short sa game, but at least we see the difference between the last year [na] team compared to today's team," said Santiago, who is in his second season as UE's head coach.
"We [saw] a lot of improvement compared doon sa last season," he added.
The Red Warriors struggled to be competitive in Season 84. They lost games by an average of 14.4 points per game and were the second-worst shooting team in the league. For Santiago, it was clear that their preparation for Season 84 was lacking.
It did not help that Santiago was absent for a large bulk of the tournament following a controversial suspension early in their campaign.
"Talagang kulang 'yung preparation, I would say. Remember, we were the last team to enter into a bubble, 'no. 'Yung aming dorm, kami ata 'yung last na na-approve," he pointed out.
But the Red Warriors got more time to prepare for Season 85. They joined preseason tournaments including Filoil, and had more tune-ups under their belt. Santiago believes that this build-up will pay off soon in the form of a victory in the UAAP.
"I would say, even though we lost the game, I would say na we can win some games this coming season," the coach said. "You noticed naman na we have players ngayon na pwede ngang makatulong, compared to last season na talagang wala talagang players talaga."
"Ngayon, with the preparation that we have and some players na dumating, I would say na it's gonna be a different season for us this coming Season 85," he added.
But Santiago knows that his players will need to walk the talk, starting with Wednesday's game against Far Eastern University.
"Kailangan pa rin namin ma-over 'yung hump sa talo. Technically ngayon, it's 0-15 na kami sa UAAP. So, we still need to correct, improve those mga mistakes namin, and hopefully we can bounce back come Wednesday's game," he said.
Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.