University of Santo Tomas coach Pido Jerencio believes the weeklong break before the Growling Tigers face the De La Salle University Green Archers in the game that will decide the 2013 UAAP men’s basketball champion will give his boys the time to recharge and regain their composure.
UST had a chance to grab the crown last Saturday after winning a 73-72 nailbiter last Wednesday, but La Salle outshot, outrebounded and out-assisted the Tigers for a masterful 77-70 win in Game 2 Saturday.
Jarencio said three hard-fought games before the best-of-three championship series wore out his team.
UST knocked out tough perennial rival Ateneo de Manila University in the elimination round to earn the last berth in the semifinals. Then it had to defeat the topseed National University twice to barge into the championship.
“We played three consecutive pressure-packed games while La Salle was resting, that’s why it’s a very tough championship series,” said Jarencio after the Game 2 loss. “One week rest is a good blessing in order for my players to rest and refresh.”
The coach, however, was not making any excuses, and acknowledged he did not expect the Archers to play as tenaciously as they did.
“They came prepared and their big men caught us off-balance,” said Jarencio, referring to centers Norbert Torres and Arnold Van Opstal and forward Jeron Teng, who gave La Salle a 57-39 edge in rebounding and 18-6 in second chance points.
Jarencio hopes forward Aljon Mariano, Kevin Ferrer and center Karim Abdul will get their bearings back after a dreary performance in Game 2 in time for the Saturday decider at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
A win by UST will give it 19 championships, tying Far Eastern University for the record.
La Salle head coach Juno Sauler expects UST to come back strong in Game 3.
“We cannot allow them to dominate us even at the early stage of the game. We must keep our composure and confidence,” said Sauler, who has to make sure Torres, Van Opstal, Jeron Teng, LA Revilla and Almond Vosotros play with the same cohesiveness and aggression they displayed in Game 2.
Jeric Teng, the elder brother of La Salle’s Jeron and a graduating senior of UST, had a career-best 28 points in Game 2 loss.