DE LA Salle coach Juno Sauler refused to believe momentum is on the side of the Green Archers heading into their rubber match against University of Santo Tomas Tigers for the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball title.
The Archers are coming off a resounding 77-70 victory over the Tigers in Game Two of the best-of-three series over the weekend, but Sauler said it’s still anybody’s game in the do-or-die match set Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I don’t know if there is some momentum on our side but we are just focused on the game on Saturday,” said Sauler in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
UST counterpart Pido Jarencio, who appeared with Sauler in the weekly forum, also thinks it’s anybody’s game during the rubber match – the first in the UAAP Finals since the 2009 title match between Ateneo and University of the East.
“Walang momentum-momentum dito,” said Jarencio. “Winner-take-all ito. Pareho lang lahat.”
With the best-of-three series down to its final match, everything is now down to mental preparations, according to the two coaches.
“More on mental lang. Isip at utak na lang. Kung sino ang may gusto,” said Jarencio.
“Everything is mental. Whoever performs better and (is) mentally tougher will end up victorious in the game,” Sauler said.
“Again, we go back to preparations and mental toughness that will make the difference in Game Three,” he added.
Jarencio reiterated it was the "little things" that proved to be the difference for UST in Game Two as they lost focus even before the game was played.
“Hindi ko aalisin ‘yung magandang linaro ng La Salle. Kami kasi ‘yung maliliit na bagay na sinasabi ko sa kanila na ayusin lang namin para pagdating ng Sabado, wala ng dahilan,” said the former UST star player.
Sauler hopes to continue the Archers’ assertiveness inside, but hopes La Salle’s guards will also play a key role for Game Three.
“I hope they can keep making good adjustments on the floor para ma-balance ang output ng bigs and guards,” said Sauler.
UST took the series opener with a nail-biting 73-72 victory last week, before La Salle bounced back to tie the series at one game apiece.
Based on the team’s three previous Finals match-ups, history has not been good to the winner of Game One. Teams that lost the series opener won the title twice (UST in 1994, DLSU in 1999).
UST, however, won the crown in 2006 after beating Ateneo in Game Three.