AS lofty as the expectations are for University of the Philippines this UAAP Season 81, the one thing the players still don't have is the experience.
And for coach Bo Perasol, it's undeniable that the Fighting Maroons are still feeling their way into this foreign situation of being a contender.
"Totoo yun. That's why we’re trying to grope our way towards this na parang nangangapa kami," he said.
"Sabi ko, 'We cannot let wins be our distraction and we cannot losses be our distraction.' Kasi for a team that’s not used to this, those things are happening eh. When we win, it becomes a distraction. When we lose it becomes a distraction also. So we need to find a way we can overcome that in due time so that we can still do what we have intended to do this season."
Heavily favored on Wednesday, UP suffered a stunning 86-72 defeat to lowly UST which saw it fail to close the first round on a three-game winning streak and rather, drop to a 4-3 slate.
It was a lackadaisical showing for the Fighting Maroons, with almost everyone waking at the wrong side of the bed as they trailed by as many as 30 points, 76-46 entering the fourth quarter.
"We deserved to lose that game. Totally outhustled, totally outplayed," said Perasol.
Juan Gomez de Liaño agreed.
"We started really bad, then eventually, tuloy-tuloy na until the end," quipped Gomez de Liaño, who was held to just nine points, four rebounds, and four assists in the defeat. "We just kept on going in the fourth but we fell short. We just didn't have a good game. It was their day today."
It was a brutal reality check for UP -- that turning the Fighting Maroons to Winning Maroons won't be an easy process to take.
Though the boys from Diliman were able to get over fellow contender La Salle and NU, this defeat slapped them with the reality that no team is going to roll over for anyone in this league, and consistency is a must, especially for those aspiring to challenge the heavyweights.
"Napakarami naming dapat ayusin. I just feel that we don’t have that single mindset, that single-mindedness na buo kayo at alam mo na we can go through this together," said Perasol.
"Right now, I really feel that we have what it takes to win, but parang kalat-kalat kami. That’s why I’m hoping we have the time to pull it together in due time. We all know we can, they know they can, but they know they cannot do it by just one, two, or three of them. They know they have to do it together, but we’re still trying to figure out how we can do that."
"I really think and I still believe that we can do this. But it’s just part of learning things together, of learning adversity together. We have to hurry up and we need to hurry up."