Back on the winning track, NU intends to keep the pace-setters within striking distance on Saturday when the Bulldogs take on struggling UP in the resumption of UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball action at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs will come into their 2 p.m. showdown with the Fighting Maroons fresh from a 6-day break since regaining their sharp form of old behind a 75-68 victory over host UST, stopping their 2-game bleeding while improving their mark to 3-2.
In contrast, UP, running at seventh with a 1-5 slate, has dropped its last 2 matches, including a 64-79 setback dealt by Ateneo last Wednesday, spoiling coach Bo Perasol’s bid to put one over his former team in their initial meeting.
A victory by the Bulldogs will enable them to gain a share of second spot with the Blue Eagles, but NU coach Eric Altamirano isn’t taking the Fighting Maroons lightly.
“There are no pushovers in this league. You cannot overlook everybody. We have to prepare well and play heads up against them,” said Altamirano, a former Fighting Maroon himself who proved to be as one of the vital cogs in UP’s title run in 1986—the school’s first and only UAAP cage crown yet.
While the Bulldogs certainly enjoy a superior edge in terms of manpower, Altamirano said the Fighting Maroons are capable of pulling big surprises, something that they’ve done in their 75-71 stunner over free-falling UE barely 2 weeks ago.
“They’re a dangerous team at wala kaming pwedeng ipagmalaki sa kanila,” he stressed.
UP coach Bo Perasol couldn’t stress hard enough how daunting the task at hand is, with NU import Alfred Aroga tops on their defensive plans.
“Our defense has left much to be desired. Defending Aroga will be tough against my big men,” he stressed.
But that doesn’t mean Perasol is keen on raising the white flag immediately, saying: “We treat our remaining games as opportunities to improve.” — By Jerome Lagunzad