MANILA, Philippines – The UAAP title defense of the NU Bulldogs has gotten off to an less-than-ideal start as the team enters their fourth game of the season on Saturday, September 19 without a win on their record.
NU, who will face the currently undefeated UST Growling Tigers next, has already suffered losses to La Salle, UE, and Ateneo, with the game against the Blue Eagles being the closest one they came to winning.
Against Kiefer Ravena and company, who snapped a 3-year, 6-game losing streak to National U, the Bulldogs were ahead by 5 late in the fourth quarter but lost their lead thanks to a clutch 3 by the reigning UAAP MVP and untimely turnovers by Gelo Alolino.
With Alfred Aroga fouling out in the fourth period, NU was badly outrebounded by Chibueze Ikeh and Ateneo in the two overtimes, eventually leading to the defeat.
“Just like any other loss, we have to move on. Don’t dwell on this game. We just have to focus on our next game [on] Saturday [against] UST,” NU head coach Eric Altamirano said after the game.
The champion head coach did point out one key factor on the stat sheet that he felt played a big role in the loss of his team.
“We didn’t get the calls today. 43 versus 16 (free throws), and I don’t complain to referees. Never. I respect them. But I felt they were already fouling Gelo during that fourth quarter. They did not call the foul, naagaw yung bola (the ball got stolen),” he said.
Altamirano was referring to Alolino’s two late turnovers in regulation, which helped Jerie Pingoy and Ravena put points in the scoreboard to send the game to OT.
“Dalawang beses nila nagawa yun (they did it twice). Dalawang beses na steal. That’s the game right there. I feel bad for the boys, but again, wala tayo magagawa (we can’t do anything about it). Referees call yan… the breaks did not go our way in the end,” said Altamirano.
NU now finds themselves at the bottom of the league standings with Adamson. Unlike the Soaring Falcons, who are expected to struggle this season as they continue to rebuild their team, the Bulldogs are supposed to be a title contender. Though if the losses continue to pile up, chances are they may not even make the Final Four round.
“We just have to continue to remain steadfast. Focus on what we’re doing. Do not waver. Just continue to work hard and good things will come out of it,” said Altamirano.
“I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned, so we just have to take the good with the bad. We’ll stay positive. We’ll continue to prepare for the other games. We’ll see from there.”
Their next opponents, led by the lethal duo of early MVP candidates in Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer, won’t make things any easier. To add to that, the pressure of each contest increases now for NU as attaining more wins becomes more mandatory.
“Every game is pressure. We have to pressure ourselves also. Kasi, yun nga (because), very important ang mga (the) games, so at least sa ngayon nasa kamay pa naman namin yung outcome, yung results nang season namin (the outcome and ressults of our season are still in our hands). So we’re still there. We just have to stay positive.” – Rappler.com