Jeffrey Cariaso’s debut as the Alaska Aces’ new head coach did not go the way he wanted it to be.
Cariaso received a rude welcome on Friday, as the Aces bowed to Khapri Alston and the Columbian Dyip, 110-117, in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup opener at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“First game assessment… I wish CJ wouldn’t have played so well,” quipped Cariaso, as CJ Perez — just weeks removed from the FIBA World Cup — finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Turning serious, Cariaso said that the team struggled to perform, especially on the defensive end.
Their defensive woes showed when Alaska allowed Columbian to lead by 14 points, 97-83, early in the fourth. They also let import Khapri Alston collect 38 points and 22 rebounds.
“I told them scoring a hundred points is good and normally you win. But if you can’t defend, and if you get badly out-rebounded (48 to 65), that’s what’s gonna happen,” he said.
“So we have to assess again our defense. We really struggled defensively.”
Cariaso also said the Aces have had difficulty adjusting to import Justin Watts, who finished with a game-high 40 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists in the defeat.
For Cariaso, the team is still acclimatizing to an import who plays the wing position, since they are more used to an inside player in Mike Harris last season.
“That’s one thing we have to understand. It’s a new style in a sense where our import now is more of a wing, more of a guard. That’s a different dynamic to what it was a year ago,” Cariaso said.
“The guys are not only adjusting to me, but adjusting to that dynamic that our import is medyo wing siya. Our guards and wings are adjusting, our bigs are being challenged more if you noticed,” he continued.
“But that’s the thing that we sort of assumed and expected. It’s really just, again, getting better at what we’re doing and hopefully as we move forward, we get better.”
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