All in the mind as Austria hopes SMB displays 'mental toughness' against seasoned Talk 'N Text
Coaches Leo Austria and Jong Uichico lock horns anew after clashing just two weeks ago. Jerome Ascano

COACH Leo Austria is convinced San Miguel Beer has the talent to go all the way and hopes the Beermen have developed mental toughness to overcome Talk ’N Text when they begin their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Beermen are back in the semifinals of the all-Filipino conference for the second straight season, following their dominant run that saw them top the eliminations with their 9-2 record.

Now Austria hopes they could get over the semifinals hump, the same stage where the favored Beermen got the ax when they lost to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 4-2, in the Philippine Cup last season.

“Mental conditioning kami kung ano gagawin, eh tamang tama din yung automatic semis kasi you have time to recuperate saka every day, ginagawa naming lahat ang kailangang gawin para sa game,” Austria said, whose team dropped a 101-107 decision to Talk ’N Text in their only elimination round match two weeks ago.

The game starts at 7 p.m.

San Miguel, a powerhouse squad that has underachieved for the last three seasons, boosted its backcourt last week when they reacquired veteran playmaker Alex Cabagnot, who figured in a straight swap with Sol Mercado. Mercado ended up going back to GlobalPort.

Cabagnot, part of the Petron squad that reached the Finals in the 2013 Governors Cup, averaged career-best numbers of 15.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists with the Batang Pier.

Talk ’N Text coach Jong Uichico believes San Miguel also has an advantage in the series opener because of the week-long respite.

“I think they (Beermen) are at an advantage being well-rested. We played four games, and three of those games were tough, except Barako (Bull) and in that stretch, we had Purefoods, San Miguel and Ginebra so we had to really work extra hard,” Uichico said, who will be facing his former team.

Uichico won his first six PBA championships as the Beermen’s head coach from 1999 to 2006. The 52-year-old veteran bench tactician, then won two more when he handled Ginebra from 2006 to 2012, before joining the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned Meralco squad as its consultant.

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