UAAP: UP riding 6-game run into duel vs Ateneo
Ateneo would rather be in a better place in the standings heading into a showdown against title rival University of the Philippines.
But despite just making it to 3-3 (win-loss), the Blue Eagles are ready for the streaking Maroons.
“We’ll show up,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “Don’t lose any sleep over that; we’ll be there.”
UP will be supremely confident against the team it has faced in the championship of the past two seasons. And why not? The Maroons have won their first six games in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament, while the defending champions have been up-and-down so far in the tournament.
But Baldwin believes Ateneo’s 97-77 rout of University of Santo Tomas in its last match will give UP something to think about.
“We all really love being underdogs and we hate being the favorites,” Baldwin said.
“Goldwin can sweat a little bit this week, which we want him to. But come game time on Sunday, he’s gonna be very confident in his team. He’s gonna be very confident in their performance, their strength but he’s gonna worry, during the week; I think our performance [against UST] gave him a few different things to think about,” he added.
So far, the only thing Goldwin Monteverde has been thinking about is getting his team to improve game by game.
“For the team, every game, winning close games or not, we’ll always take that as a learning experience. Especially the team now is a mix of veterans and young guys. They really need this kind of game to grow as a team,” said Monteverde after UP’s nail-biting 67-64 victory over La Salle last Wednesday.
“We shouldn’t stop [learning],” Monteverde, who steered UP to the Season 84 crown—the school’s first after 36 years—said. “There’s always something we can improve on. As a team, we will really take good and bad games as learning lessons for us. We will continue to look for improvements every game and every practice. [Learning is] nonstop.”
UP’s 6-0 start has erased whatever mental edge Ateneo would have had at this point of the tournament, the first meeting between the two squads who battled for the last two UAAP titles. But even if things had gone according to plan, Baldwin never saw this game as a rematch of last season’s championship duel. “It’s definitely not a rematch. The names of the teams might be the same but we’re far cry from the same team that went out to play them. We have a lot to prove. And every game is an opportunity for us to prove things. It’s a great scenario to go up against the team that’s beaten [every opponent],” Baldwin said.
UP and Ateneo will parade rosters that are starkly different from the ones that engaged in a dramatic championship showdown last season.
That duel featured Finals Most Valuable Player Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, BJ Andrade and Forthsky Padrigao of the Eagles going up against the Maroons’ Carl Tamayo, Zavier Lucero, James Spencer and Henry Galinato.
None of them will be on the court on Sunday.