MANILA—“I didn’t see any effort. The players just showed 50 percent of it. We were outplayed. We didn’t win in any department.”
The painful assessment came from coach Glenn Capacio after he emerged from a bitter two-hour, closed-door meeting with the Far Eastern U Tamaraws who played like lambs in absorbing a 72-49 flogging from the Ateneo Blue Eagles Saturday.
The rout was the most unlikely scenario predicted for Game 1 of the best-of-three series for the UAAP men’s basketball championship, but it was all too evident after the first two quarters ended at 26-8 and 42-21.
The Tamaraws, the league’s top offensive team with an average of 75.4 points going into the playoffs, finished with a pitiful 27-percent shooting clip.
The top seeds, who owned two wins over the Eagles in the eliminations, had no fastbreak point, while their two major stars—MVP RR Garcia and Rookie of the Year Terrence Romeo—finished with a combined 21 points.
The Tamaraws admitted, though, there’s no one else to blame but themselves in the nigthmarish start of the series that tagged them as favorites.
“We just self-destructed,” said Capacio.
“Ateneo didn’t do anything extraordinary. In a championship series, it’s about who has a bigger heart.”
Capacio said the game looked over by the end of the first quarter after his listless FEU crew hardly showed the dominant form that kept them on top the entire season.
“I don’t know what happened to our boys; it was like they were shocked,” said Capacio.
“No matter what the coaching staff said —like we kept telling them there was no need to rush—it didn’t happen. Maybe we didn’t give enough motivation, or the mental preparation wasn’t enough.”
The defending champion Eagles dealt the Tamaraws the league’s worst beating in a Finals series since the 1998 championship where the La Salle Green Archers also routed FEU, 72-47, in the series opener.
“I just hope we learned something from this,” said Garcia, who led his team with 11 points. “I’ll do whatever I can in the next game. We have to show more effort.”
“We’ve been talking about desire, but it looked like they (Eagles) wanted it more,” said FEU skipper Jens Knuttel. “We were waiting for this for how many years. The whole season we showed so much effort, but there was none in the Finals. That was the big problem.”
And it’s a problem the Tamaraws have to fix in the next few days to keep their title hopes alive in Game 2 this Thursday.
“It’s going to be like hell,” FEU athletic director Mark Molina said of the Tamaraws’ week.
“That’s the only way we can come back on Thursday. We can’t play with the same kind of attitude [we showed in Game 1. We have to be tougher.”
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