UAAP: Struggling Ateneo quickly puts latest loss behind

Ateneo Blue Eagles.–MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo suffered a third straight setback for the first time in 10 years after a 65-61 loss to National University in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday.

Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga, speaking for Tab Baldwin who missed the game after being sick for the past week, said they cannot dwell too much on the defeat despite dropping to fifth place with a 4-6 record.

“One thing, of course, we said in the dugout. It’s normal not to feel good about the loss so we have to feel bad. I guess the approach for us is we can’t dwell and think about this loss because we have games to play and we have games to win. That should be our mentality going forward,” said Arespacochaga.

“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves because our season isn’t over yet. We still have games that have to be played and have to be won so that’s the message in the dugout so we wanted to come together all the more,” he added.

The last time Ateneo dropped three in a row was back in Season 76 in 2013 when the Kiefer Ravena-led team under then-coach Bo Perasol missed the Final Four. 

The Bulldogs also swept the Blue Eagles for the first time in the elimination round since Season 77. 

It may be Baldwin’s most losses since joining the UAAP in 2016 as Ateneo continues to search for their first victory in the second round but the Blue Eagles remain determined to recover and snap out of their struggles.

Sandy Arespacochaga Ateneo UAAP

Ateneo deputy Sandy Arespacochaga.–MARLO CUETO/

“Season is not yet over, that’s what we’ve been saying. We’re gonna prepare hard, watch tape. We got a job to do. Coach Tab is not here. He has won a lot but he has lost a lot also in his career. That’s basketball. Sometimes you win a lot but sometimes you lose a lot but what’s important is the mindset that we have,” Arespacochaga said.

“People will be talking but we cannot lose sight of our goal and objectives. That’s why we have to be more laser-focused on our concentration and mindset. That’s why it has to be collective with the team thinking. We cannot be distracted or even bothered by those thoughts because certainly that won’t help us.”

Decision-making down the stretch has been the problem of the Blue Eagles in their past three games.  That’s why Arespacochaga and the coaching staff will focus on reviewing their past games with the team.

“We’re gonna watch tape. We’re gonna go over this, especially the last few possessions with our players, hoping that we can point to them what they could have done better. Decision-making is very important for us, especially with the situation we are in. The game in itself there was pressure. And our position right now is a lot of pressure too,” he said. “We have to embrace the pressure and not back away from it. Now, moving forward, there will be a lot of pressure on us. How we approach this is very important.”

Arespacochaga still credited NU for sweeping them in the elimination round this season as rookie Reinhard Jumamoy unleashed his best game and Jake Figueroa put on the finishing touches.

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“This was a tough game for us. Of course, NU is a very tough team. We stood toe to toe against them. I think, Reinhard really stepped up for NU. He really played a terrific game. Shut the lights out to show the UAAP who he is,” he said. “Down the stretch, a couple of plays for us that we could’ve done better, we could’ve executed better for us. But defensively, especially in the fourth, we were happy with the way we defended. Credit to the NU’s defense, they made things tough for us to execute. That’s why we’re gonna be looking at how to improve our execution also for the next game.”

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