It was the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates’ first time playing on opening day, and their first time at the state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena. And last season’s runners-up could not hide their excitement.
“Before the game, coach [Topex Robinson] reminded us that this was our first game here,” recalled Cameroonian student-athlete Mike Nzeusseu.
“As much as we were excited, we want to be aggressive and make sure we set the tone.”
The Pirates were able to escape the San Sebastian Golden Stags, 85-80, to extend their elimination round streak to 19 games. But it was not a win that they will be talking about for a long time.
“They [Golden Stags] were the grittier group against sa amin. They know that man for man they don’t really have anybody to match up with us. They really did well as a team,” remarked fourth-year head coach Topex Robinson.
“Like he said, we had a lot of turnovers, we got the win, so we need to learn from it and be better the next game,” added the 23-year-old Nzeusseu.
The Pirates led by as much as nine points in the contest. But they could not muster a breakaway run, as they also committed numerous errors (29 in total) that led to 23 San Sebastian points.
Seeing this, the NCAA Season 92 Rookie of the Year took matters into his own hands. He scored the go-ahead bucket with 2:48 left, while following it up with a find to Spencer Pretta for a wide-open triple.
“I think crucial din we forced them to turnovers especially those crucial times. Again, we just played fire with fire them. We’re lucky that we got this win,” added Robinson.
And so Nzeusseu will firmly hold on to a lesson that Robinson has been stressing during their practices.
“During practice coach always remind us that we’re not competing against any team, we’re competing against ourselves. We had to remind ourselves of that. We have to be tight and play loose at the same time.”