THE slow start may not be what National University (NU) Head Coach Eric Altamirano has expected—and imagined—in Season 78 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
But the charismatic coach does not look extremely alarmed minutes after his Bulldogs absorbed a heartbreaking 70-74 double-overtime loss to Ateneo de Manila on Wednesday, the team’s third straight defeat.
It was NU’s worst start under Altamirano, who admitted they need to get their act together.
“For as long as there are games, there is a chance. So, just like any other loss, we just have to move on. Don’t dwell on this game and focus on our next game against UST [University of Santo Tomas],” Altamirano said.
Their championship hangover from Season 77 could have been the culprit in their 63-67 loss to De La Salle at the start of their campaign. NU then ran into a spirited University of the East in its second assignment and absorbed a 71-76 beating.
But against the Blue Eagles, the Bulldogs had all the chances to end their losing woes but the exit of Alfred Aroga late in regulation on five fouls cost them a lot.
Plus, Altamirano believed his team just didn’t get the breaks against Ateneo.
“It’s really hard if Alfred is not in the game. We were outrebounded. We were making stops in two overtimes but we can’t block them out,” Altamirano said.
“Plus we didn’t get the calls [36 fouls on NU, 19 on Ateneo]. I don’t complain to the referees. I respect them. I just felt they [Blue Eagles] were already fouling Gelo [Alolino] during the fourth quarter and it happened twice and they were able to steal the ball. That’s the game there,” he added.
The defending champions are now sharing the cellar with Adamson University. But for Altamirano, he’s not about to press the alarm, more so the panic button.
“We have to continue to remain steadfast, focus on what we are doing and do not waver. Just continue working hard and good things will come out it,” he said. “Each game has been a character game for us. There are lessons to be learned. The outcome of our season is still in our hands. We just have to stay positive.”
The Bulldogs take on the unbeaten Growling Tigers in Saturday’s main game at 4 p.m. After UST, they will face season host University of the Philippines on September 26 and Far Eastern University on the final day of the first round on October 7.
Image credits: Alysa Salen