When UST head coach Aldin Ayo had been asked how does he see his side’s clash with Cignal-Ateneo in the PBA D-League, the champion tactician said that it would be a great measuring stick as to how his Growling Tigers have grown.
“Well against Ateneo, susukatin lang namin kung hanggang saan na yung narating namin. We’re just going to do our best,” said Ayo.
“Right now kasi I can say Ateneo is the best collegiate team that we have right now.”
Game time came on Thursday, and what happened had been more than that.
The Growling Tigers went berserk from beyond the arc and buried 19 three-pointers to deal the reigning two-time UAAP champions its first loss in the developmental league with an impressive 112-98 victory.
That, however, left the one-time UAAP champion coach far from satisfied, as the cagers from España faced an Ateneo side that did not have foreign student-athlete Angelo Kouame and especially head coach Tab Baldwin.
“Kulang din naman sila. Wala si Ange, wala especially si coach Tab. So ‘di to magiging reference kung hanggang saan pa kami,” he said.
But even if he downplayed such, there’s no denying that UST played superbly. Everyone but one contributed at least two points, with young guns Mark Nonoy and Rhenz Abando leading the pack with 23 and 21 markers, respectively.
Moreover, the Growling Tigers shot an excellent 50.6 from the floor. And their defense had been on point as well, as they forced the Blue Eagles to commit 20 turnovers, which they then converted to 22 points.
And for Ayo, this is only a result of the work the team is putting in.
“If there’s one thing na mai-credit sa amin, it’s how we practice eh. Practice plan namin nakafocus parati sa skills. Its preseason ngayon. It’s all about making the players better, magimprove kami in terms of skillset,” he said.
“At kasama na dun yung makaestablish ng chemistry ng system namin.”