NATIONAL University (NU) is expecting a raging onslaught from Far Eastern University (FEU) in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals of University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 77 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City today. Game time is set at 3:30 p.m.
Bulldogs coach Eric Altamirano emphasized the importance of defense against the rampaging Tamaraws who dethroned former champion De La Salle University, 67-64, on Wednesday behind Mac Belo’s buzzer-beating three-point shot.
“FEU has a strong offensive firepower and we can’t allow them to find their rhythm, so our defense will play an important role again in this series,” Altamirano told The Manila Times on Friday in an interview. “I’m expecting a grudge match but I’m expecting my players to step up.”
NU last won a UAAP championship in 1954. The school’s second best UAAP achievement happened in 1970 when it finished second to University of the East.
NU defeated Ateneo for the fourth time this season including two consecutive wins in the Final Four. Before reaching the semifinals, the Bulldogs also survived a playoff game against the University of the East Red Warriors.
Besides Alolino, graduating players 6’6 Troy Rosario, forward Glenn Khobuntin, shooting guard Jay Jay Alejandro, Rev Diputado and 6’7 Cameroonian center Alfred Aroga, among others are expected to compose the team’s defensive wall in Game 1.
“Since the start of my coaching in NU, I always tell them the value of playing defense and I’m so happy that we’re harvesting the fruit of our hard labor. We just have to sustain our effort all along the way,” said Altamirano.
FEU, under coach Nash Racela, is also expected to play defensive to nullify NU’s long-range shooting.
Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Archie Iñigo, Roger Pogoy and Carl Cruz are expected to lead the Tamaraws’ charge.