NU coach Eric Altamirano admits mental fatigue, inexperience did Bulldogs in
Troy Rosario came up huge in the early goings but cramps kept him out for most of the second half. Jaime Campos

NATIONAL University coach Eric Altamirano pointed to mental fatigue and overexcitement as the primary causes of the Bulldogs shaky shooting, jittery plays and even Troy Rosario’s cramps in the finals opener against Far Eastern University.

The Bulldogs lost an early double-digit lead and bowed to the Tamaraws, 70-75, on Saturday at the MOA Arena.

So jittery were the Bulldogs that they shot a dismal 48.3 percent (15-of-31) from the charity stripe.

[See FEU Tamaraws a win away from UAAP championship after holding off NU Bulldogs]

“To sum it all up, that did us in — yung free throws namin,” Altamirano said. “More of that is mental fatigue and masyado silang emotional, siguro excited sa Finals.

“Normally when they shoot free throws, they’re very relaxed, focused sila; they’re not expending too much energy,” he explained. “But I felt they felt they were doing that.”

The Tamaraws, on the other hand, made all but two of their 13 attempts (84.6 %) from the stripe.

Rosario led the Bulldogs’ attack in the first half, where he scattered 11 points in 16 minutes as his team enjoyed leads as many as 12 points.

But the athletic forward was non-existent after intermission, when the Bulldogs’ second leading scorer only added a solitary point as the Tamaraws turned the game around.

Worse, Rosario went down with cramps on his left leg and never returned after going out with still over five minutes remaining in the final frame when the Bulldogs were mounting a fightback.

“We badly needed him in the fourth quarter,” Altamirano said of Rosario, who played only seven minutes in the second half. “We’re trying to talk about that, but we’ll see.”

“Again, baka part of the excitement din siguro,” he added of Rosario’s cramps.

"Malaking bagay na nawala siya," Tamaraws coach Nash Racela said. "I think the players are feeling the pressure of the Finals."

The rest of the Bulldogs also showed jitters in their first appearance in the Big Dance, unlike the Tamaraws, who had four players who’ve had previous Finals experience in Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Carl Cruz, and Russel Escoto.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos