UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas (UST) braces for another tough challenge as it stakes its unbeaten slate against winless National University (NU) in the main game of Season 78 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball action on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The league-leading Growling Tigers (3-0) meet the skidding Bulldogs (0-3) at 4 p.m., while University of the East (UE) and Ateneo de Manila eye their third straight win when they face off at 2 p.m.
UST Head Coach Bong de la Cruz expects NU to come out strong as the defending champions have yet to score a victory after three games.
“Babawi sila for sure. They are the defending champions. Pride nila ang nakataya kaya they will go for the win,” said de la Cruz, whose team is coming off a week’s rest after beating season host University of the Philippines, 67-59, last weekend to grab the solo lead.
Veterans Ed Daquiaog and Kevin Ferrer have been providing stability for the Growling Tigers, while Karim Abdul is slowly returning to his usual fiery form.
The Bulldogs, off to their worst start since Eric Altamirano became their coach in Season 74, are hurting from a heartbreaking 70-74 double-overtime loss to the Blue Eagles. But Altamirano is seeing improvements in their game.
“We are playing better defense compared to our previous two games. We just have to continue working hard and stay positive,” Altamirano said.
The Red Warriors and the Blue Eagles, meanwhile, enter the match with a two-game winning streak each.
UE downed Adamson University, 89-78, in its previous match, while Ateneo shocked NU in the double-overtime thriller behind the exploits of reigning Most Valuable Player Kiefer Ravena and Nigerian Chibueze Ikeh.
Standings: UST 3-0; FEU 2-1, UP 2-1, UE 2-1, Ateneo 2-1, DLSU 1-2, NU 0-3, Adamson 0-3.