MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin braces for a “dogfight” against defending champion University of the Philippines as last season’s finalists renew their rivalry on Sunday in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.
The showdown is set at 4:30 p.m. Ateneo and UP clash for the first time since the Fighting Maroons ended the Blue Eagles’ three-season reign in a dramatic finals Game 3 last May.
Baldwin stressed the importance of the highly-anticipated meeting with UP as both sides currently share second place with identical 3-1 records.
“It’s a big game, and I think that we want to be in the running for the twice-to-beat advantage, and I think the pathway, the realistic pathway to that is to win this game,” said Baldwin after Ateneo vented its ire on University of Santo Tomas, 79-52, last Wednesday.
Five months after their epic championship series, Baldwin anticipates a grind-out battle with the Fighting Maroons.
And the Kiwi-American mentor doesn’t see his Blue Eagles backing down from it after coming off a physical encounter against UST.
“Rather than being a classic, it’s probably gonna be more of a dogfight. That’s okay. I think we were in a dogfight (against UST), and I don’t think we’re scared of dogfights,” Baldwin said.
UP won’t be without its finals hero JD Cagulangan but Baldwin doesn’t see any reason for his team to let its guard down with the Maroons still a formidable team led by Carl Tamayo.
“We gotta go out there and play great basketball. We’re going up against, obviously, the league favorites, and a team that hasn’t had it all their own way,” said Baldwin. “They’ve had some struggles. They have injuries. They’re still finding their best form, as we are, as I think most teams are.”
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