Inexperience did University of the Philippines in anew on Saturday as the Fighting Maroons closed out their first round campaign in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament with a 69-80 loss dealt by the National U Bulldogs at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After trailing by as many as 13 points late in the third canto, the Fighting Maroons charged back early in the fourth and pulled the closest at 57-59 off a Paul Desiderio lay-up, giving the Bulldogs a big scare with 4:29 left to play.
UP’s momentum, however, was put to a shuddering halt as Fil-Am center Andrew Harris fouled a driving NU big man Mehd Salim and incurred a technical foul for his resenting to a call for the second time, sparking a crucial six-point swing that the Bulldogs gamely pounced on for a decisive breakaway.
“I think very crucial ‘yung technical foul. From that technical foul, we were able to score six points,” admitted NU coach Eric Altamirano, referring to the six unanswered points made by Matt Salem’s three made charities and a completed three-point play by rookie JV Gallego for a 65-57 cushion with four minutes to play.
Even UP coach Bo Perasol stressed the technical foul called on Harris changed the complexion of the match.
“We had a bad situation when they had a six-point swing because of a technical foul,” he said.
Add to the fact that the Fighting Maroons struggled to slow down the Bulldogs during a crucial two-minute stretch where they scored 11 of the next 13 points and Perasol knew they’re really in for another setback—their sixth overall in seven matches.
“We were not able to make those crucial stops in the end. We were able to make shots but ahead na sila at that particular time. It all boiled down again to inexperience,” he lamented.
Perasol, however, tried to stick to the few positives he saw from the Fighting Maroons.
“Maganda naman ang tinakbo namin sa opensa. Defensively, we were able to at least not get Alfred Aroga dominate us. But (Matt) Salem made his shots against our zone,” he said.
“Knowing what they can do in practice, I can’t be angry with them. I can’t be made. I really think they’ve pushed themselves.”
Not finishing the first-round winless is enough for Perasol to dream big moving forward.
“I was so afraid that we’re going to end up 0-7. We’re fortunate to get one win,” he said.
“I think in the second round, we have to improve defensively. We have the time to adjust on that and we have to make sure we’re going to work on the things that we need to improve,” Perasol concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad