DE La Salle coach Juno Sauler was left to rue his decision not to call a timeout late in the Green Archers' 66-68 loss to University of the East on Wednesday in the UAAP men's basketball tournament.
Sauler admitted the extended minutes of his star players took its toll in the end, leading to a collapse that saw the defending champions losing a 71-61 lead with four minutes left in the game.
Sauler believed his players were already fatigued at that point of the match and a timeout could have helped.
“Probably, I should have called a timeout earlier. The players had that run, but when we were up by 10, the players played extended minutes. They probably poured a lot of energy during that run when we had a 10-point lead,” said the soft-spoken coach.
Turnovers also hounded La Salle as a steal by Dan Alberto led to a UE three-point play to break a 63-63 deadlock with 31.8 seconds to go.
“We should have been conscious in taking care of the basketball,” Sauler said.
Jeron Teng, Almond Vosotros, and Kib Montalbo played at least 35 minutes each for the Archers, who remain in third spot with a 9-4 (win-loss) slate but are just one game ahead of fifth-ranked UE which is at 8-5.
Before taking control in the fourth, the Archers dug themselves out of a 15-point deficit in the first half. La Salle outscored UE, 17-7, in the third quarter to cut the deficit to only 39-43.
“We had too many turnovers. But credit to UE. They shot very well. They were shooting jumpshots and threes in transition. They shot 40 percent from the three. It’s hard to beat a team like that,” noted Sauler.
The loss left the defending champion in a precarious situation, since a loss to National University on Saturday could push the Archers down to as low as the No. 4 spot in the Final Four.
But Sauler refused to dwell on the UE loss, saying another win will put the Archers in a position to play for one of the twice-to-beat incentives in the semifinals.
“Everyone is chasing here and there, even the FEU-Ateneo game. It’s going to be a circus in the last games for the teams that are involved. It’s going to be an exciting last two playing dates,” said Sauler.