ALDIN Ayo blamed first-game jitters and a long layoff behind La Salle’s shaky finish in their win over Far Eastern University in UAAP Season 79.
The Green Archers, the heavy favorites to win the crown this season, came out firing and led by as much as 16 points. But not a lot expected a fierce FEU fightback which cut the lead to three with a little over two minutes left before La Salle pulled through with the victory, 83-78, on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The La Salle coach, in his UAAP debut after a title run with Letran in the NCAA last year, said that his team was too excited and rusty after not playing a competitive game since the tune-up match against the same FEU team weeks back that ended prematurely.
“Kalawang eh,” Ayo said. “That was our first game and we haven’t played for almost three weeks.”
“Last game namin, ‘yung tune-up na hindi natuloy,” he added.
Ayo also explained that losing a 16-point margin was due to poor decision-making as he rued the 27 turnovers the Green Archers committed, which they will look to arrest in their next outing against University of the Philippines on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“’Yung rust factor and decision-making, especially on our defense in the end game. (The 27 turnovers) that’s decision-making especially sa transition. Lamang kami sa transition but we didn’t make good decisions,” said Ayo.
Meanwhile, the difference in the game environment in the UAAP also stood out for Ayo. Walking into the same press room after his NCAA conquest last year, the La Salle coach clad in a white polo shirt and black slacks could not help but get overwhelmed at the competitive atmosphere inside the Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s different,” said Ayo. “I watched the first game at Araneta, and for me, every game, parang championship compared sa NCAA. Lots of expectations. Lots of hype. But it’s still basketball.”
Jeron Teng led the way for the Green Archers with 28 points, while Ben Mbala posted a double-double of 13 points and 23 rebounds. But Ayo said the win was a team effort.
“We also have role players who played well,” said Ayo.