MANILA, Philippines — In just their first game of the season, the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates already revealed a critical weakness: inexperience.
The Pirates lost to last year's Final Four finishers University of Perpetual Help Altas, 70-61, as they failed to execute and make baskets down the stretch.
Head coach Topex Robinson points this out as something the Pirates need to work on as Season 91 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament rolls along.
"We have to play more of those close games," said the newly-installed head coach, who called the shots for his alma mater the San Sebastian Stags last season. "I guess it's more of the experience of playing those close games that's gonna improve us."
"Trying to capture the lead, putting up a good lead, those things you're only gonna learn through playing," explained Robinson, who mentored the likes of Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang. "So that's part of our teaching, the experience that we're gonna gain."
The Pirates, which missed the Final Four last year and finished at 7th place with a 7-11 record, were off to a good start in their season debut, leading the Altas 16-9 in the first period. But they allowed Perpetual to storm back and take a 29-24 halftime lead.
The teams were deadlocked at 57-all with under 4 minutes left in the game and Lyceum froze, allowing Perpetual a 7-0 run to establish a separation the Pirates would never overcome.
The Intramuros-based team worked to come back again but missed open looks, turned the ball over, and took rushed ill-advised shots.
Despite the clear need for more burn, Robinson is confident his team will quickly adapt and soak every experience in.
"What's good about these players is they're coachable," he said. "They're trying to be disciplined amid the chaos of the game. They're still trying to be focused."
"We're gonna mess up a lot, we're gonna make a lot of failures but we're really looking at the big picture," added Robinson, whose immediate goal for his team this season is a Final Four appearance.
Whether or not the Pirates picked something up from their first loss remains to be seen on Friday, July 3 when they clash with last year's finalists Arellano University Chiefs.
"I always try to tell them that we wanna honor the game, we wanna honor the opponent. We wanna always play our very best. It might not be a guarantee we're gonna win, but as long as we're playing our best basketball, that's what matters for us." — Rappler.com