Since taking over the helm as the head coach of National University’s men’s basketball team, coach Eric Altamirano has never started a UAAP campaign with a 0-3 slate.
That was up until Wednesday night when the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles escaped with a 74-70 double overtime win against the defending UAAP Champions.
In a grueling 50-minute tilt, the cagers from Jhocson Street were able to go toe-to-toe against a deep Ateneo squad even with their big men Kyle Neypes and Alfred Aroga fouling out during the 3:39 and 18.7 second mark of the game respectively. Chibueza Ikeh and the Ateneo frontline took advantage of this in added time as they crashed the boards and pounded the paint to notch the Blue Eagles’ first victory against the Bulldogs in two years.
A visibly-dejected coach Eric Altamirano talked to the members of the press after the grueling game. “Hangga’t may game, may pag-asa,” he opened. “Just like any other loss, we have to move on. Don’t dwell, we just have to focus on our next game.”
The multi-titled coach reflected that there was a vast improvement in the team’s defense compared to their first two games against the DLSU Green Archers and the UE Red Warriors but it was hard not to have Aroga on the floor, especially during their last two games. “I think there’s a great improvement in our defense, but it’s hard pag wala si Alfred. He fouled out the last two games. We were outrebounded.” The frontline of the Katipunan cagers outrebounded the Bulldogs 57-46 with Ikeh leading the way with 14 boards. This led to an 11-second chance point difference between the two squads.
However, there was a huge discrepancy between the fouls called between Ateneo and National U with the latter being called for 36 fouls compared to 19 that resulted to a ten-point difference in free throws made. “We did not get the calls today. 43 versus 16 [free throws]. I don’t complain to referees ever,” Altamirano remarked about the calls. He cited two instances wherein the officials could have called a foul on Gelo Alolino during the closing minutes of the final quarter. “I felt that they were already fouling Gelo, they did not call the foul. Naagaw yung bola kay Gelo. Dalawang beses nila ginawa yun, dalawang beses na steal.”
Looking forward, Coach E shared what he told to his team after the game. “We just have to continue to remain steadfast. Just focus on what we are doing and to not waver. Just keep on continuing to work hard. all the games that we have played are character-building. There are lessons to be learned. We just have to take the good with the bad.”
Coach Altamirano ended the scrum in saying that the team needs to “stay positive.”
“Matagal pa naman e.”
There are still 11 more games for the NU Bulldogs as the grind continues. The defending champions (0-3) will have a tough assignment on Saturday, September 19 against the undefeated UST Growling Tigers at 4:00pm.
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