DESPITE dominating top seed Ateneo the last two years, National University is the decided underdog when they square off in the UAAP Season 77 Final Four on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles topped the eliminations this season with an 11-3 win-loss record en route to clinching a twice-to-beat incentive while the Bulldogs had to beat the University of the East Red Warriors, 51-49, in a knockout match to enter the Final Four as the fourth seeds.
However, NU holds an imposing 4-0 advantage over Ateneo in their head-to-head matchup the last two seasons - an accomplishment Bulldogs coach Eric Altamirano is throwing out of the window.
“Pagdating sa Final Four, everything will even out, so throw out the stats, kasi kung sino talaga ang gustong manalo, yun ang mananalo, wala nang advantage advantage,” Altamirano said on the eve of their 4 p.m. game.
As always, Altamirano said he has reminded his boys to remain unrelenting on defense, something the Bulldogs have done so well after holding their opponents to just 57.4 points per contest this season, the best in the league.
“All throughout the season, that’s (defense) what we’ve been preaching to the boys kasi ang importante is we focus on our strength,” he said.
“If our defense got us here (Final Four) up to this point, we’ll have to go with that again,” added the 48-year-old NU mentor.
Meantime, Ateneo star and newly-crowned season MVP Kiefer Ravena said all it takes is for the Blue Eagles to beat the Bulldogs on Wednesday in order to erase the stigma of NU’s two-year domination over them.
“As coach Bo (Perasol) would put it, sabi niya we can’t fear anything. Even if we haven’t beaten NU for two seasons already in the eliminations, mag-i-iba pa rin siya pag Final Four,” said Ravena, who averaged UAAP career-high numbers of 21.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 35.1 minutes this season.
“They (Bulldogs) have to beat us two in a row. That’s an advantage we need to take care. We just have to win once and those four games the past years will be erased with all the heartaches they’ve given us,” he added.