MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin was dissatisfied with how the Blue Eagles executed on defense against University of the Philippines (UP) in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball finals last Saturday.
The Blue Eagles ended the elimination round as the No. 1 ranked team on defense, allowing only 61.9 points per game on 36.4% shooting to their opponents.
In Game 1 of the finals, however, the Fighting Maroons put up 79 points on them, on 42.86% shooting. Moreover, UP shot a blistering 13-of-28 from beyond the arc: Jun Manzo, Juan Gomez de Liano, Javi Gomez de Liano, and Diego Dario nailed three three-pointers each.
Ateneo still came away with an 88-79 win, but Baldwin – along with assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga – was none too pleased with their defense.
"It's disappointing when our defense doesn't do its job," Baldwin told reporters after the game.
"Just look at the stats of what we gave up this season," he pointed out. "They shoot 46% from 3, they shoot 40% overall, or better than that."
"I'm not sure, (but) we didn't do our job. And when you don't do your job, I think it's the coaches' job to be disappointed," Baldwin added.
Heading into the game, Ateneo only allowed opposing teams to shoot 22.8% from beyond the arc. They also gave up just an average of 5 three-pointers per game before UP torched them for 13 triples in Game 1.
That the Blue Eagles limited UP captain Paul Desiderio to only 5 points, and forced Juan Gomez de Liano to shoot 5-of-14 from the field, was of little comfort to the Ateneo coaches.
"We're not happy that Jun Manzo got 19 points out of good field goal percentage, and we're not happy that we gave up 13 3s on 46.4% shooting," said Arespacochaga.
Manzo, usually a defensive-minded point guard, converted 8 of his 11 shots for a team-high 19 points in the game. Dario, who only norms about 3 points per game, finished with 9 markers as well to give UP a lift off the bench.
"That's something that we'll look at, and that we'll work on, in order for us to come up with a good game plan on Wednesday against UP," Arespacochaga said. "We're gonna watch tape and see where we make mistakes, and try to correct it."
Their defensive miscues aside, Baldwin said he was proud of how the Blue Eagles "stuck to the task" and pulled off the win in Game 1. However, he also stressed that it was just the "first half" of the finals, and made one thing very clear.
"We have to expect a lot more from our defense on Wednesday," the coach said emphatically.
The Blue Eagles are looking to clinch their second straight UAAP title – and 10th overall – on Wednesday.
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