UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas coach Boy Sablan stood defiant as his Tigers lost a ninth straight game on Sunday, moving ominously closer to the first winless season in the UAAP in four years.
The lackluster Tigers hardly stood a chance against Far Eastern University, dropping a 96-70 defeat that left them with just five games to avoid the school's first winless season in the Final Four era.
As it is, the 0-9 (win-loss) record is already the worst start to a season in school history.
Sablan, at least, had a ready excuse for the blowout loss to the Tamaraws which two starters - Steve Akomo and Jordan Sta. Ana - sat out. Akomo was down with the flu while Sta. Ana suffered a shoulder injury in practice on the eve of the FEU match.
Sta. Ana is averaging a team-best 13.9 points while Akomo leads the Tigers in rebounding with a 13.4 average.
"Siyempre, malaking effect," said Sablan, a former UST player who is in his second season as head coach. "Nakita n'yo naman 'yung rotation namin, nahirapan 'yung dalawang gitna namin."
"Tulad ni Jordan Sta. Ana, slasher ko 'yun, top scorer ko. Top rebounder ko naman si Steve Akomo although 'yung rebounding namin, nanalo pa rin kami. 'Yun ang strength namin eh."
UST's continued slide, however, is becoming increasingly indefensible for Sablan.
The Tigers' 3-11 (win-loss) last year in his first season in charge was already the school's worst during the Final Four era, falling short of the 4-10 cards which Nel Parado achieved with the team during the transition from the successful seasons under Aric del Rosario.
Sablan and the Tigers now have five games - against National University on Oct. 22, Adamson on Oct. 25, La Salle on Oct. 29, Ateneo on Nov. 4 and UE o Nov. 12 - to avoid becoming the first team since University of the Philippines in 2013 to end a season without a win.
Sablan, however, isn't panicking.
He takes solace from the fact that a couple of UST's losses - specifically the second-round loss to the Maroons - were from games that could've gone either way in the final minutes.
The UST coach is also training his sights on NU, which is also on a slump with successive losses.
"We are on a same boat," said Sablan of the Bulldogs. "We will just prepare doon sa game against NU on Saturday hoping na we get that W or in the succeeding games."