MANILA, Philippines – UAAP Season 82 has been a roller-coaster for the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws.
The Tamaraws have been wildly inconsistent in the men's basketball tournament: they have beaten De La Salle University, University of the Philippines (UP), and University of Santo Tomas (UST) – all of whom are in the hunt for a Final 4 spot.
But FEU has also lost to cellar-dwelling National University (NU) twice this season. They were routed by the Bulldogs, 61-39, in the first round, and beaten in overtime in the second round, 85-79.
They followed up that defeat by comprehensively beating UST, 72-58, in what is their most impressive win of Season 82. That gave the Tamaraws a 5-5 record, and for all their ups and downs, they are still in the Final 4 race.
"I just have to try to understand my team more," FEU coach Olsen Racela said after the game.
"We need more consistency," he added.
Racela noted that the Tamaraws have shown they can compete against top teams. They did it against UP, recovering from a late collapse in regulation to claim an 82-79 win in overtime. They did it against UST, too, finding their mark from long range late to pull away from the Tigers.
"We're hoping that we can do that on a consistent basis," said the coach.
This is all the more important given the jumbled nature of the Final 4 picture. Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University, at 10-0, is already assured of a semifinals spot and a twice-to-beat edge.
The other three spots are still up for grabs, however. UP (6-3) is in second place, while FEU and UST are in joint third. Chasing them are La Salle (4-5) and Adamson (4-6). Even University of the East (3-7) and NU (2-8) are not out of the running.
"Every win counts in the second round. Para sa amin, katulad ng sinabi ko sa mga players ko before the game, every game is a do or die game," said Racela.
"We treated this game (vs. UST) like that, and the boys responded," he added.
With four games left on their schedule -- Ateneo, La Salle, Adamson, and UE – the Tamaraws are already treating every game as a playoff match.
"Sinabi na ni Coach Olsen na lahat ng laban namin, puro do or die na," said FEU guard LJ Gonzales, who had 17 points in their win over UST. "Ginawa naming motivation 'yun para sa amin, para sa team."
"Isang talo pwede na kaming hindi makapasok sa Final 4," noted rookie guard Royce Alforque. "Ang inisip namin, ang mindset namin is gusto lang namin manalo. Kasi mahirap talunin 'yung team 'pag ayaw magpatalo eh."
The Tamaraws play the Blue Eagles on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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