University of the East’s search for its first win in UAAP Season 81 finally ended on Sunday, and they did it with the kind of flair and confidence that would make anyone wonder why it took them this long.
Against an FEU side that strategically took apart UP last Wednesday, the Red Warriors looked impressive from start to finish and snatched what already looked to be the most impressive victory from any team so far in the tournament.
Head coach Joe Silva was the first to admit that he didn’t expect to see his boys win decisively, much less with a 25-point margin.
“Ang gusto lang namin talaga coming into this game was to get that win. ‘Yung winning margin just came because the boys worked hard. They really wanted to win, the desire was there,” he explained after the game.
“We wanted to win. We were down there. We wanted to at least get a win before the second round. We knew we had to come here and play hard because they’re one of the top dogs in the UAAP, so we just played hard and doubled our effort,” Jason Varilla said.
‘Hungry’ was the accurate way to describe UE from the opening tip. With Alvin Pasaol coming off the bench, the team sped off to a 43-31 halftime lead before cranking it up in the second half.
“Pumunta kami dito para maglaro talaga. Kailangan naming doblehin ‘yung effort naming kasi ‘yung last few games naming, konti lang ‘ung pinakita namin eh. Ngayon sa FEU, pinakita namin lahat ng kailangan namin gawin,” Pasaol said.
The result was impeccable, as the Recto-based Red Warriors recorded season-highs in points, field goal percentage (46 percent), and bench points (43) while knocking down 12 of 32 attempts from downtown (37.5 percent) and holding FEU to a season-low in points, field goals (34 percent), and assists (10).
They even two assists shy of eclipsing Ateneo’s season-high mark in assists (24) against FEU, too (22), with Philip Manalang accounting for 12 of those.
“Siguro sa four games namin ‘yun ‘yung hinahanap ko as a point guard, ‘yung pumutok sila, ‘yung mga shooters ko. Then nung nag-start na pumutok sila, ang dali na mag-drive. Pati ‘yung big man ko napapasahan ko na, lumuwag ‘yung depensa,” Manalang opened.
Silva credited his players for grinding hard despite the fact that they lost their first four assignments. He knew that a losing streak could take away any team’s momentum and confidence, so he lauded his boys for powering through the struggle until they got the result that they wanted.
“Once you lose, it’s hard to get your players to play hard and to get your players to believe that they can win especially when wins aren’t coming. I just told them to stick to the system, trust the process and your hard work will pay off. It’s been a learning process for all of us, and the system showed today especially on defense,” Silva said.
UE will have six days off before jumping back into action against the UST Growling Tigers next Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.