FAR Eastern University has been preparing for National University way before their Thursday meeting in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
As early as Sunday, when they faced the University of the East Warriors, the Tamaraws already had NU on their minds as coach Bert Flores spurred his team to control the boards -- fully aware that rebounding is one of the strengths of the Bulldogs.
Unsuccessful at first, the Tamaraws recovered in the second half and won the battle of the boards with the Warriors, 45-40, en route to a 92-66 win.
The emphasis on rebounds is understandable.
NU is the third-leading rebounding team in the league this season, something which the Tamaraws needed to offset as they bid to keep their immaculate record.
“Going to our next game, nasa top three ang NU sa rebounds kaya try talaga namin na ma-control ang boards,” said FEU coach Bert Flores. “Kailangan pa namin mag-improve dahil nga NU ang makakalaban namin.”
The Bulldogs average 46 rebounds per game compared to the 40 of the Tamaraws, who are second to the last in the department.
Nonetheless, the Morayta-based squad will still go for their fifth win in as many games in their 4 p.m. encounter with the Bulldogs as they try to move two victories away from completing a first-round sweep, a feat they last accomplished two seasons ago.
Other than his team’s rebounding woes, Flores is also wary of reigning league MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr.
“Mahirap katapat si Ray Ray Parks. Wala kaming pantapat sa kanya kasi maliit ang frontcourt ko,” Flores admitted.
FEU will lean heavily on blossoming guard Terrence Romeo, who had a remarkable week that saw him score a career-high-tying 23 points against Adamson last week.
So far, NU has been on a roller-coaster ride with an even 2-2 mark. It lost to University of Santo Tomas, 77-71, last Saturday despite holding a lead of as much as 14 points.
In the first game, four-time defending champion Ateneo looks to solidify its hold of second spot when it takes on winless University of the Philippines at 2 p.m.
Even though they lost a heartbreaker to the Tigers two weeks ago, the Blue Eagles are now back on track having won two straight games, including a 71-61 win over archrival La Salle last Saturday.
“When you start the season, you just want to get off to a good start,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “You don’t want to play catch-up down the line. We stumbled along the way, but at least we have a little bit of cushion to work with.”
The Maroons fell short of their comeback bid last Sunday as they dropped a 69-67 decision against Adamson for their third straight loss.