UAAP: ‘No reason to panic’ for FEU Tamaraws despite 0-2 start
MANILA, Philippines — Far Eastern University coach Olsen Racela is not pushing the panic button despite dropping their first two games in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
It was the first time for the Tamaraws to lose their first two games since their 0-4 start in the 2006 season after falling to the University of the East Red Warriors, 76-66, last Wednesday at Philsports Arena.
Racela, whose squad yielded to UE for the first time in four years, stressed they have to play defense consistently as they were ahead in the first half of their first two games, including their 79-70 defeat to Ateneo last Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We have to be better defensively. Right now, what I saw in our first two games second half against Ateneo and second half (against UE), that’s when our opponents pulled away,” the FEU coach said. “We have to do a good job defending, especially one-on-one in this game. Our guards have to do a better job taking care of their responsibilities. The bottom line is we have to do better all-around, especially defensively.”
Racela admitted they missed the presence of RJ Abarrientos, who decided to be a one-and-done after taking his talent to Korea, and former center Emman Ojuola. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for the Tamaraws as they have been preparing with their current roster, led by L-Jay Gonzales, Patrick Sleat, and Cholo Anonuevo, since the preseason.
“We lost one-third of your scoring and rebounding with RJ and Emman last year. But in the preseason they were already gone. The bottom line is we have to be better, especially in our next game. It’s just our first two games but we’re looking for improvement and growth,” he said in Filipino. “It’s like we didn’t improve from our (first) game.”
Although it was a tough start, Racela stressed that they still have a long season to go to keep the longest active streak of Final Four appearances in the league — with their eighth consecutive entry last season.
“No reason to panic. But to get to the Final Four, you have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. We are in the same league as UE. Ateneo, La Salle, and UP are favorites. For the teams that we are in the same level, we have to take care of business,” he said.
“We have to bounce back, whether getting one from those favored teams or a couple. If that’s what needs to happen, we have to do it. But what I’m looking for is an improvement from game to game.”
FEU faces a tall order as it takes on the unbeaten defending champion University of the Philippines (2-0) on Saturday, 4 p.m., at Smart Araneta Coliseum.