After eight games, Ateneo de Manila University is still undefeated in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
But head coach Sandy Arespacochaga said the Blue Eagles are not looking for the perfect record before going to the next phase of the league.
“We are not looking at our record right now. That’s what we keep on emphasizing,” said Arespacochaga as Ateneo battles National University (NU) in the main game on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Coach Tab (Baldwin) wants to focus on the next game, the current game that’s in front of us and not our record, not our standing. That’s what’s more important,” he added.
The Blue Eagles (8-0) collide with the skidding Bulldogs (3-6) at 4 p.m. right after the opening tussle between Adamson University (5-3) and the streaking University of the East (UE) at 2 p.m.
Ateneo is coming off a 71-59 victory over the Soaring Falcons to extend its unbeaten start to eight games.
Arespacochaga said aside from winning the game, their goal is to improve each game, as he knows the real battle will happen in the Final Four round.
Thirdy Ravena, the acknowledged leader of the Loyola-based squad, knows the competition gets stiffer in the second round as the rest of the field wants to inflict them their first loss.
“This is a new round. We can’t afford to have the same preparation as in the first round. All the teams will make the adjustments. We still have to work hard and we can’t be complacent,” said Ravena.
The Blue Eagles dominated the Bulldogs in their first-round meeting, 96-83, powered by the 18-point, 11-rebound performance of Chibueze Ikeh.
NU needs to come up with a solid game plan to snap the eight-game winning streak of Ateneo and get back in the hunt for a Final Four spot.
After a promising 2-1 start, the Bulldogs of rookie coach Jamike Jarin have dropped four of their last five assignments including a shocking 77-90 loss to the Red Warriors.
Meanwhile, UE seeks its third straight win over Adamson, which is also coming off a 59-71 loss to Ateneo.
After a 0-6 start, the Recto-based cagers have won back-to-back to put some life to their fading Final Four chances.
“It will be tighter and tighter. There’s no third round,” said UE head coach Derrick Pumaren, whose wards are out to avenge their 60-79 loss to the Soaring Falcons.
Adamson remains No.3 with 5-3 mark behind defending champion De La Salle University (7-2) and Ateneo.
The Falcons need to get back on the winning track to stay within the striking distance with the league-leaders.
Games today (MOA Arena)
2 p.m. Adamson vs UE
4 p.m. Ateneo vs NU