FOR someone known for guarding bigger players early in his collegiate career, it appeared to be an effortless thing for Mac Belo now that he’s assigned taking on smaller men in Season 78 of the UAAP.
And that was none more obvious on Sunday when Belo took on the role as primary defender of Ateneo gunners Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal in the Tamaraws’ 66-61 win over the Blue Eagles.
The strategy worked.
Ravena scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter but had to bleed for every basket late in the game when Belo was in front of him.
The FEU stalwart even had a big block on Ravena during the waning moments of the match that sealed FEU’s win over Ateneo.
Earlier, Belo was also tasked to defend Pessumal, who was held down to just eight points and shot just 2-of-10 from the field.
FEU coach Nash Racela said Belo’s defensive abilities is a testament of how he has grown by leaps and bounds since he became part of the Gilas cadet team two years ago when he played for the national team in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
He was also part of the team this year when the biennial meet was held in Singapore.
“Again, it’s part of Mac’s improvement. Kasi dati, he is used to guard bigger guys sa ilalim. When he started playing with Gilas, doon siya natuto.
“He started guarding perimeter players and he really embraced that. Kaya that gave us confidence na ilagay siya sa perimeter,” said Racela.
The FEU mentor is impressed with how Belo defended against the Blue Eagles while doing well on offense by scoring a team-high 12 points for the Tamaraws, who stayed in first place with a 7-1 win-loss slate.
“I think he did well against Von today. Towards the end, we have to use him on Kiefer. Not part of the plan but kinailangan,” he said.
Belo said for his part that he is making a concerted effort to be a complete player by playing defense.
“Kailangan ko talaga mag-work sa defense especially sa small. ‘Yun ang iniimprove ko every game,” said the national team member.