University of the Philippines coach Bo Perasol remained defiant even after three defeats to University of Santo Tomas, counting a 20-point bushwhacking that set the stage for a knockout match with the resurgent Growling Tigers in the UAAP Season 82 stepladder semifinals on Wednesday.
Even with their star-studded roster, the Fighting Maroons can’t seem to figure out the Tigers, who relied on their rookies in rolling to a wire-to-wire 89-69 victory on Sunday that exhausted UP’s twice-to-beat advantage.
“The way we played in most of the quarters, there’s just no way we can win against UST, let alone against other teams,” said Perasol. “We need to be a lot better.”
Similar to their games this season, the Maroons again got off to a flat start in stark contrast to the Tigers, who found their groove from beyond the arc early as they built an 18-point advantage in the first half.
Every UP run was also countered by a basket stemming from the precise execution by the Tigers, while their defensive tenacity also kept the Maroons’ gunners in check with starters Kobe Paras and Jun Manzo struggling with their shots.
“We cannot just be the recipient of their (Tigers) aggressiveness,” said Perasol. “We have to match up with their aggressiveness and just simply be better than them.”
Juan Gomez De Llaño produced his best game of the season with 20 points in the second half, but that wasn’t enough to lift the Maroons, who only had 12 assists and 23 turnovers.
Perasol did welcome his prized guard’s second half performance, but the coach hopes more players will step up in the do-or-die match.
“We couldn’t bring that type of game against any team,” said Perasol, referring to their performance last Sunday. “If the others don’t do their jobs, we can still get outscored, outhustled and outplayed.”
The only silver lining for Perasol and the Maroons is the fact that they’ll have one more crack at a finals berth as an incentive for finishing second in the elimination round.
“The blessing and the silver lining is that we’ve put ourselves in a situation that we have another chance,” said Perasol. “And that chance is going to be there for us. So if we want to be given a chance to be in the finals and deserve to be in the finals, we have to be better.”
“It’s a do-or-die game, so we just gotta want it more, double our efforts on both ends of the floor, and just really play together,” said De Liaño. “Win or lose, we still stick together. We’re just trying to stay positive, whatever the situation is, and learn something from it.”
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