Ateneo and University of the Philippines (UP), UAAP title protagonists the last two seasons who have so far been on different rides in Season 86 of the men’s basketball tournament, take on separate foes on Wednesday with the defending champion Blue Eagles looking to right the ship as early as they can and return to form as the team to beat.
As for the Fighting Maroons, nothing seems to be wrong as far as they are playing, with Far Eastern University the next team to be put in the pressure cooker to try and slow down UP.
At 1-2 and certainly playing way below what they are capable of, the Eagles battle surprising University of the East (UE) at 1 p.m. at Mall of Asia as they try to climb out of the lower half of the draw and keep the other title contenders within arm’s length.
And while Ateneo is still searching for the right form, UP is playing near perfect and will stake a 3-0 record against the winless Tamaraws at 11 a.m.
“The job is certainly far from finished,” prized rookie LeBron Lopez said just after the Maroons waylaid another highly touted side in National University, 78-60, last Saturday. “This is just our third game and [practically] the start of the season.
“We’re happy [with the win], but we are going to move on to our next game and hopefully win that, too.”A happy feeling, meanwhile, has come to the Eagles just once thus far, and coach Tab Baldwin is scampering to find solutions to their woes.
“We better figure some things out about how important it is to be composed, how important it is to be mentally and physically tough as we were against La Salle,” Baldwin said, referring to their only win of the season, a 77-72 shaving of the Green Archers win a week ago.
Some say winning every game of that rivalry is the most important thing each season for the two teams.
But knowing the perfectionist in Baldwin, that will never be the case.“You can’t do it in one game and say that’s who you are. That’s just a lie,” he said after a 74-71 loss to Adamson four days ago. “You’ve got to do it over and over, and for three-and-a-half quarters today (versus the Falcons), we weren’t.”
Adamson seeks to followup on that triumph when it battles La Salle in the 6 p.m. contest, with the winner likely to keep a share of second place as the Bulldogs battle winless University of Santo Tomas in the 4 p.m. game.The Falcons, Green Archers, Red Warriors and Bulldogs are tied at 2-1 going into the fourth playdate.
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UE rallied from 14 points down to trim the Tamaraws last week, and Gjerard Wilson has fast shaped up to be the go-to-guy for the Warriors. INQ