LA Salle big man Arnold Van Opstal blamed the Green Archers’ flat start for their 65-60 loss against Far Eastern University on Sunday.
The defending champion shot just 30.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, allowing the Tamaraws to dictate the tempo on the way to clinching the No. 2 seeding and a twice-to-beat advantage against their victims in the UAAP Final Four.
“We started off flat while FEU played well, breaks of the game in the end. (It's) unfortunate what happened late in the game,” a disappointed Van Opstal told sportswriters after the match.
The 6-foot-7 center finished with seven points and eight rebounds, but missed several putbacks in the second half that prevented La Salle from pulling away.
The Fil-German slotman also accounted for seven of La Salle’s 20 turnovers, hastening the downfall of the reigning champions.
Facing the specter of getting dethroned with another loss, Van Opstal said it is imperative for the Archers to step up their game when they collide anew with the Tamaraws next Saturday in the semifinals.
“I personally think they’re the strongest team in the UAAP other than us,” observed the four-year veteran.
“It (game) could have gone either way. Every time we play against them (Tamaraws), just breaks of the game. So right now, our team needs to step up and play smarter the next game,” he added.