SEASON host University of the Philippines (UP) stakes its mettle against De La Salle as it aims for a rare 2-0 start in Season 78 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers, who also won their opening game, clash in the opener at 2 p.m., to be followed by the tussle between heavyweight Far Eastern University (FEU) and University of Santo Tomas (UST) at 4 p.m.
UP, which hoisted its only UAAP crown in 1986, gave its supporters a reason to be hopeful this year after pulling off a thrilling 62-55 victory over a rookie-laden University of the East (UE) at the start of the season on Saturday.
Since last year, the players have been working hard for this season and it paid off [in our first game], Fighting Maroons Head Coach Rensy Bajar said.
Our battle cry this season is to play defense and share the ball. And that’s what we need in our next game, Bajar added.
The Diliman-based team last had a 2-0 start in 2005, under Head Coach Lito Vergara and with Marvin Cruz, Abby Santos and Nestor Davis as its key players.
But Bajar knows his Fighting Maroons are up to a big challenge against De La Salle, which scored a 67-63 victory over defending champion National University on Sunday.
The Green Archers, who lost to the Tamaraws in the Final Four last season, banked on the clutch basket of Jeron Teng against the Bulldogs to nail their first win of the season.
That win does not prove anything. We have to continue working hard and have fun, Teng said.
Head Coach Juno Sauler also commended Jason Perkins, Abu Tratter and rookie Andrei Caracut in their opening-game win and hopes other players will contribute against the dangerous Fighting Maroons.
The Tamaraws and the Growling Tigers are also eyeing a 2-0 start this season.
FEU dominated Ateneo de Manila, 88-64, while UST survived a late scare from Adamson University, 70-64, behind the solid performances of veterans Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag, who combined for 52 against the Soaring Falcons.
We have to prepare against FEU dahil mabigat na laban ito sa amin, Growling Tigers Head Coach Bong de la Cruz said.
Some of my veterans played well in the first game. Si Karim [Abdul] hindi pa siya 100 percent because of his injury. Hindi pa niya nakukuha ang kanyang playing weight. Same with Kent Lao and Louie Vigil, de la Cruz added.
After their 24-point demolition of the Blue Eagles, FEU became a heavy favorite as Coach Nash Racela’s wards displayed depth and balanced attack against Ateneo.
UST has a veteran core. They are eight to nine man-deep. Mahirap talagang kalaban ‘yan. If Abdul gets his timing back, it will be doubly hard to defend him, Racela said.
Racela added that it has been a tough week for them as they will face La Salle on Sunday.