MANILA, Philippines — University of the Philippines coach Goldwin Monteverde took the blame for their second-half collapse that resulted in a 75-67 loss to rival Ateneo on Saturday.
The Fighting Maroons led at the half but they couldn’t carry over their momentum into the final two quarters where the Blue Eagles took control.
“I think we came really prepared for the game. We started out low, but before the second quarter, I thought we just really picked it up offensively. But we [failed to sustain it] in the second half. I guess it’s for us coaches. I believe the guys really worked hard in the game,” Monteverde said after the Fighting Maroons failed to reassert their mastery of the Blue Eagles in front of 14,328 fans.
Zavier Lucero missed all of his 11 shots in the game as UP was held to just 31.3 percent shooting from the field, while MVP candidate Malick Diouf was in foul trouble and finished with only seven points on 2-of-4 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Despite the struggles of the Fighting Maroons’ star duo, Monteverde remains confident that Lucero, Diouf, and the rest of his wards will bounce back in the Final Four.
“I think as a team, we always took the challenges, helping each other, doing our best. Things like these happen. What’s important for us is our response,” the UAAP champion coach said. “Knowing Zavier, definitely, I’m sure he’s gonna fight until the end of the season. Knowing this team, we’ve always taken this kind of game and improved from it and come back a better team.”
UP has lost two of its last three games, including a tough defeat to La Salle last week, to finish the eliminations with an 11-3 record and a guaranteed twice-to-beat advantage. The defending champion’s seeding still depends on the result of the last elims match between Ateneo and Adamson on Wednesday.
Monteverde wants the Fighting Maroons to move on from the tough finish of their elimination round campaign and bring all the learnings they can get from the losses as they brace for the Final Four with one week of preparation.
“After our game today, when we wake up tomorrow it’s over. What’s important now is to look forward to our next game, whoever we’ll face in the Final Four. Since Day 1, our first game, we took it one game at a time. I’ve been very consistent on what to work on,” he said. “Definitely, tonight we learned a lot as a team. What’s important for us is to be ready for the Final Four.”
“Us coaches, we’re going to watch the game, review it, take a look at it. We will focus on ourselves first, on what to work on. Then when the time comes we know who will be our opponent in the Final Four, then that’s the time we deal with them,” he added.
On a positive note for UP, Terrence Fortea returned to action from an ankle injury, scoring nine points in close to 20 minutes of action. Although some of his players are still nursing injuries, Monteverde expects everyone to be available in the Final Four.
“When the Final Four starts, the players will just endure their health [issues]. Whatever happens, I’m sure, as a team, we’ll be really ready to fight for it,” he said.
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