ATENEO head coach Tab Baldwin will be the first to admit that University of the Philippines is more than just hype.
With the way the Fighting Maroons barged into the Finals, the multi-titled international veteran admitted that he didn't want to initially face the State U heading into the best of three series.
"Now I could say it, we really didn’t want them in the finals, but that’s what we got so that’s what we have to face," said Baldwin after Ateneo drew first blood in the UAAP Season 81 finals 88-79, on Saturday.
Baldwin said that this a different UP team altogether than the one that they swept in the second round, noting that coach Bo Perasol already has the team he envisioned.
"(They're) much more determined, much more cohesive. They understand their personnel, they understand how to create shots much better and they play for one another. It’s quite obvious. So that always makes a team tougher," Baldwin explained.
"It’s something I think that probably coach Bo was working on throughout the season and I think he’s got it pretty close to right. Now they’re a really, really tough opponent," he added.
While Baldwin was all praises to the Fighting Maroons, he was totally critical of his team, particularly on the defensive end of things as UP came down swinging.
As a team, UP made 13 of their 28 attempts from downtown and it's something Baldwin's not happy about.
"It’s disappointing when our defense doesn’t do its job. When another team shoots 46% from the three, just look at the stats of what we gave up this season. They shoot 46% from the three, they shoot 40% overall or better than that I’m not sure, we didn’t do our job," Baldwin said.
"And when you don’t do your job, I think it’s the coaches’ job to be disappointed."
Knowing that they're in a dog fight, Baldwin now braces for the fight of their lives when they try to clinch their second straight title on Wednesday.
"I think I you have to give credit to, no, you don’t have to give UP credit, they did what they got here to do. I’m sure that’s what coach Bo expects of them," said Baldwin.
"I was very impressed with the way that they played. We can’t expect anything less on Wednesday from them. We have to expect a lot more from our defense on Wednesday."