Malick Senegalese slotman Malick Diouf is producing MVP-like numbers for UP so far. UAAP photo

Bulldogs, Maroons dispute early lead

October 6, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 337 views

NATIONAL University and University of the Philippines, two of the preseason favorites, dispute the early lead today in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bulldogs are looking for a elevate their game several notches higher in the 1 p.m. clash with the Fighting Maroons, a rematch of last year’s Final Four.

“We will just continue again to push ourselves to the limit para makapagbigay kami ng performance sa madlang people,” said coach Jeff Napa, as NU is off to its first 2-0 start since 2016.

UP is also doing good after two games, but assistant coach Christian Luanzon knows that it is a long grind to achieve the team’s goal of reclaiming the throne.

“This league (UAAP) is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Luanzon, quoting head coach Goldwin Monteverde.

Defending champion Ateneo hopes to log its first winning streak of the season against Adamson in another rematch of last year’s Final Four at 11 a.m.

La Salle and University of the East seek to rediscover their winning ways against University of Santo Tomas and the University of the East, respectively, to wrap up the Saturday doubleheader.

Coming off a tough rivalry game loss to the Blue Eagles, the Green Archers will vent their ire on the Growling Tigers at 3 p.m., while the Red Warriors, who bowed to the Fighting Maroons last Wednesday, take on the Tamaraws at 5 p.m.

Reigning MVP Malick Diouf, who has monster averages of 19.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and two assists, is simply focusing on helping UP win.

“I’m not here for individual awards. I just want to play for my team. The numbers are a bonus,” said Diouf, who is bracing for a tough match-up with vastly-improved Bulldogs center Omar John.

Steve Nash Enriquez, who forms the deadly NU backcourt combo with Kean Baclaan, is as well not stats conscious.

“Kung nakikita ninyo, nine points (against FEU), pero at the end of the day, yung plus/minus yung kailangan. I, myself, yung grupo ko, so I had -5 when I am in the court, so parang nakaka-score yung kalaban kapag nandoon kami sa loob,” said Enriquez.

“Points, assists or rebounds is nothing. Yung importante is yung efficiency. Kung ano yung ma-contribute mo, magiging positive yung team mo,” he added.

The Falcons may have been struggling right now, but Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin knows that the San Marcelino-based squad remains solid even without injured guard Jerom Lastimosa.

“Nash (Racela, Adamson coach,) is a crafty veteran. This league is full of really good coaches, and Nash is just one of those guys,” Baldwin said. “He has all my respect and any coach that knows him well, I guarantee you, he has their respect as well, so it’s gonna be tough.”

For Racela, he needs to remind the Falcons to show resiliency in crunch time if they want to have a good chance of winning against strong teams.

“We always remind them to minimize mental mistakes. Especially a team like us, going up against stronger teams, the lesser mistakes you have, the better chance of winning,” said Racela after Adamson scrambled past UST in overtime last Wednesday.