Maroons' low morale after Madrid ban tough to overcome, says assistant Ramil Cruz
UP assistant coach Ramil Cruz, middle, called the shots from the Maroons bench with help from Poch Juinio and Bong Hawkins. Jerome Ascano 

UNIVERSITY of the Philippines assistant coach Ramil Cruz admitted the Maroons' morale was low after a two-game suspension was slapped on head mentor Rey Madrid, resulting in poor play against De La Salle.

Cruz said low morale translated into a poor start for the Maroons, who quickly fell behind, 9-25, after one quarter and never recovered. The Green Archers won the game, 74-53.

“Medyo mababa ‘yung morale ng mga bata. Expected naman ‘yun,” said Cruz. “Lackluster performance nung first half. Matamlay. Doon pa lang, naiwan na kami. We had a hard time coming back sa second half.”

Cruz, who was the technical head of the PBA for five years before joining UP's coaching staff last year, tried to perk up the Maroons with help from fellow assistant Poch Juinio as well as Bong Hawkins.

Madrid was suspended by Commissioner Andy Jao after he failed to substantiate his 'point shaving' accusations against the referees in the wake of the Maroons’ 57-73 defeat to University of Santo Tomas last Saturday.

“Mahirap pero we just have to deal with that. Nangyayari talaga ‘yun. Lesson na rin sa amin ‘yun,” said UP's first assistant coach. “Kumbaga I have to gain their respect as an assistant coach.

"Kung ikaw ang head coach, lahat susunod sayo. Kapag first or second assistant, mahirap din especially masama ‘yung pagkaka-suspindi kay coach Rey. You just have to deal with it."

Cruz hopes Madrid will be back for the Maroons' next game against Adamson following an appeal lodged by the school against the two-game suspension.

“Kahit one game (suspension) lang sana para he could be back against Adamson. Importante sa amin ‘yun,” said Cruz.

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