Tab Baldwin offered no excuses after Ateneo de Manila University’s 77-64 defeat to National University on the opening day of the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday.
This was only the Blue Eagles’ third double-digit loss during all of Baldwin’s seven seasons as the chief tactician for the defending champions. The first two instances both happened in the American-Kiwi coach’s first season with Ateneo when they fell to the Bulldogs on September 11, 2016, 70-60, before losing to arch-rival De La Salle University on October 2, 2016, 97-81.
“We should be, and we are, very disappointed with our performance,” said Baldwin moments after their loss to NU.
“I think the words that mean so much to Ateneans: ‘One Big Fight,’ the word ‘fight,’ was left out today, and that’s inexcusable.”
The decorated coach also tipped his hat to the Bulldogs, who also handed them a loss in Season 85. Baldwin praised the composition of the NU squad, which had 10 players score at least four points, led by Patrick Yu’s 12 and Steve Nash Enriquez’s 10. The Bulldogs missed their first 10 shots from beyond the arc before getting hot in the second half, converting seven of their 14 attempts from deep.
“They were 0-of-8 in the first half, and then they went 7-of-14 in the second half from three, and we didn’t do a good job contesting their threes and finding the guys that we knew were good shooters, Patrick Yu and Steve Enriquez,” said Baldwin.
“You’ve got to do those things against good teams. I think NU is a very good team, I think they played with a lot of composure today, and we didn’t,” he continued.
“Credit Jeff, credit the NU team. I told everybody that’s a veteran team, that’s a very composed, solid basketball team, and you’re gonna see they’re gonna be up there at the end of the season.”
Baldwin is not dwelling on this loss, though, as he now sets his sights on the Green Archers, whom they will face on Wednesday. La Salle, now under Topex Robinson, retained its core from last season while also getting a boost from rookie Jonnel Policarpio and a third Phillips brother, Isaiah.
“We prepare, we have a game plan for La Salle, and hopefully, our players exhibit a little more pride, and I think they will,” said Baldwin.
“I don’t like to use the term ‘wake-up call’ because we weren’t asleep; we just played badly.”