Many were surprised when Matt Nieto did not play in the second half of the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ game against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. But it was not just the people watching the game who were surprised, as even the Blue Eagles themselves were unaware of what had just happened.
“All I know is that somebody said Matt’s got an injured finger and he’s out for the game. So I said okay.
“That’s not my concern. We got other players I’ve got to worry about at that time,” quipped third-year Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin.
Nieto was on the bench for the last 20 minutes of the second game having his left pinky iced. The 6-foot-1 floor general only played seven minutes in the contest.
With Nieto out, the Blue Eagles at least lost 8.0 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.2 rebounds. But even if they bowed to the Tamaraws, 60-63, the defending champions are not using this as an excuse.
“Mahirap na wala si Matt pero ganun talaga. We offer no excuse for this loss and you just have to give credit to FEU for giving their best,” admitted Matt’s twin brother Mike, who had eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
“Our effort was there, like coach Tab said in the locker room, but we still fell short to FEU and FEU is a strong team.”
“I don’t think that we ever want to look at it that way. We believe in our roster and we expect our roster to come through and get the job done when they’re called on no matter what the circumstances are,” added Baldwin, as the Blue Eagles made sure to prepare for these situations with their overseas trips. “And tonight collectively we didn’t do it.
“It didn’t have anything to do with who replaced those guys. Sometimes you lose people to injury for a long term. You have to have confidence to step up in that situation and we believe in our players.”
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