Since Tab Baldwin started coaching the Ateneo Blue Eagles back in 2014, the Katipunan cagers have not experienced three straight losses to a team in their University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball wars. And they are not about to.
With the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons on the cusp of winning the Season 84 crown after a Game 1 win, the Blue Eagles will be keeping this in mind as they try to bounce back in the second match of their best-of-three finals series with the Maroons.
“UP deserves the credit. Goldwin (Monteverde) coached an excellent game, his players played tough as they did against La Salle. There was nothing but scrapping in them and fighting, and they did the things necessary to win big games. They rebounded the ball like there was no tomorrow, and they played defense like there was no tomorrow, and they took us out of our offensive rhythm, and we have to figure out how we can maintain offensive rhythm,” said Baldwin.
The Ateneo coach talked about what transpired after his defending three-time champion Eagles took an overtime, 74-81 loss in Game 1 on Sunday and suffered their second straight stunner to the Maroons.
The first loss to UP was an 83-84 setback at the end of the elimination round.
Because of this, Baldwin said he can’t allow a third consecutive loss to happen in their next game.
“We certainly have to figure how we can keep Malik (Diouf) and Zav Lucero off the boards among the rest of the guys, and if we do those things and make some free throws, it’s a different result. But it’s just a waste of time to talk about that, we actually have to do (these) things,” said Baldwin.
The Maroons now have the momentum in the title series after they overcame a three-point deficit in the extra period and got eight straight points off Lucero’s three, Ricci Rivero’s and-one and Carl Tamayo’s layup to get a 79-74 lead with 2:04 left.
“I think it was all UP’s defense, but we have to be better than that. They certainly disrupted our rhythm with their defense,” added Baldwin.
Rivero led with 19 points, including a flawless 11-of-11 from the free-throw line, while Lucero made 17 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.