Bulldogs brace for a tough game as they attempt to repeat over Maroons
Throughout the first round, it was only the Bulldogs of National University (NU) that managed to bite a chunk out of the seeming invincibility surrounding defending UAAP men’s basketball champion University of the Philippines (UP).
It was also NU which had one of the most unexpected losses to end the halfway point of classification, a very ugly one to a regarded lightweight, the sting of that the Bulldogs will take heading into a return match with the Fighting Maroons.
And coach Jeff Napa is bracing for the best that UP could offer. And needless to say, he would want his Bulldogs to come into the 4 p.m. match at Smart Araneta Coliseum—weather permitting, of course—ready for “a dogfight.”
“It’s going to be another dogfight. Definitely, UP won’t allow us to get another win. We will bleed if ever we get another win against them,’’ said Napa.
“We have to be ready against UP because they are the defending champions, they are No. 1,’’ said Napa, whose Bulldogs failed to secure a tie for the lead heading into the second round after floundering against Far Eastern, 47-44, for a 5-2 record like Ateneo.
NU’s other defeat came at the hands of the Blue Eagles. And fore sure, it was easier to accept, unlike that shameful tumble against the Tamaraws where Napa said: “We f*ck*d up. Simple as that.”
“We let FEU dictate whatever they did to us. We have to grow coming into the second round, especially our lapses in decision-making,’’ said Napa.
Steve Nash Enriquez typified NU’s struggles in that low-scoring match, missing all of his seven attempts and winding up with a just a point.
National’s usually reliable Omar John and Jhon Lloyd Clemente likewise fared miserably in that downfall as well as John Figueroa and backup guard Kean Baclaan.
And Napa knows that playing that way again would not give them even a slight chance against the Maroons.
“It’s a challenge for us, not just a wake-up call. I’m challenging them if they want to be big-time players, they have to make sure that they’d commit as one,’’ said Napa. “We have to move forward fast, we have to act fast if we want to regain our momentum again,’’ he added.
Winning their last three assignments, the Maroons are out to focus on improving themselves regardless which team they face.
“I think we just have to work more on our consistency. We have to be more organized and whatever lapses that we had in the first round, we will work on it as a team,’’ said UP coach Goldwyn Monteverde.
UP’s health will play a decisive role in its bid to repeat as champions with mobile pivotman Carl Tamayo and last season’s championship hero, JD Cagulangan, gearing up in the second round as their injuries are expected to heal completely.
Cagulangan played in their triumphant outing against the Blue Eagles, but missed the rest of their matches in the first round due to a strained left hamstring. Tamayo, meanwhile, has been slowly recovering from a sprained ankle.
At full strength, the Maroons can even be scarier with Zavier Lucero, Malick Diouf, Gerry Abadiano, Terrence Fortea, Harold Alarcon, Cyril Gonzales and James Spencer churning out heads-up performances.
The other game slated at 2 p.m. will have the Tamaraws colliding with the University of the East Red Warriors (3-4). Far Eastern started the season 0-5 and capped a two-game streak with that win over the Bulldogs.
“Every game is important. Anything can happen with just one win,’’ said Far Eastern coach Olsen Racela.