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Dela Cruz, UST vow to start aggressively in Game Two

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Last Wednesday, the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers’ inspired second-half surge came up short as they dropped the opening game of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Basketball Championship against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 75-64, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

But despite the tough defeat, the fight isn’t over yet for head coach Bong Dela Cruz and his Tigers.

“Siguro ‘yung first two quarters, siyempre after missing the Final Four last year, parang hindi nila na-feel na ganito pala sa championship,” Dela Cruz shared after the game. “FEU really played way doon sa first half at talagang mayroong sila mga bump, mga physicality ng game. Kami naman, medyo nagulat so when we adjusted, nagkaroon nang magandang laban.”

Dela Cruz also added that UST had multiple chances to establish a big lead in the final quarter. The Tigers gained a 62-61 edge after a Louie Vigil shot at the 5:40 mark but the breaks of the game would later on go to FEU’s favor.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Dela Cruz, UST vow to start aggressively in Game Two    UST then went scoreless until the dying seconds of the game and saw FEU mount a furious end-game rally. The Tiger had their chances to score but the shots simply didn’t go in, and FEU also made some huge defensive stops in the process.

“Prepared sila [FEU] nung first quarter and second quarter. Noong third quarter, medyo nakarecover kami,” Dela Cruz added. “Actually breaks of the game eh, 62-61 ata iyon eh, mayroon kaming tatlong attempts na hindi naconvert. Mayroon malalapit na hindi naconvert [like] layup, follow up [and] that is the breaks of the game.”

“We [will] keep on fighting. Nandoon ang puso maglaro na kahit down kami by 12, lumaban pa rin ang mga bata. Lumaban kami as a family kaya lang, ‘yung breaks [of the game lang]. We were up by one point, pwede maging three [ang lamang but] tatlong possession hindi naconvert.”

FEU’s deeper rotation also proved to be a huge factor during the opening game as it exposed UST’s shallow rotation. The Tigers saw 8 players play heavy minutes while FEU slotted in 11 players during the game and, none of the Tamaraws who saw game time breached the 30-minute mark.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Dela Cruz, UST vow to start aggressively in Game Two    Karim Abdul played a total of 36 minutes in the game while Kevin Ferrer played 33 minutes. On the other hand, Mike Tolomia played the most minutes for the Tamaraws with 26 while Roger Pogoy saw 25 minutes of floor time.

Both teams may have differences in terms of depth, but Dela Cruz still expects his team to play their hearts out and give it their all. The series is far from over and if they play their cards right, they can force a do-or-die game.

“Nandito iyan para maglaro ng basketball. Hindi time na sabihin nila na burn out iyan or what,” Dela Cruz further explained. “Nandiyan iyan, maglalaro ng basketball iyan kahit every pang paglaruin. They want to win and iyong willingness manalo, they’ll play 100 percent.”

Lastly, Dela Cruz wants UST to be more aggressive come the second game since FEU dominated them in the rebounding and exploited their size disadvantage. For UST to battle it out against the best rebounding team in the league, it will be all about exerting more effort than the other.

“Yes, alam ko na masyado kaming outrebounded at very aggressive sila [FEU],” Dela Cruz closed. “Hindi agad kami nakarecover doon sa aggressiveness nila so Saturday kailangan namin doblehin aggressiveness namin.”

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