Before the start of the post-game press conference last Wednesday, coach Jeff Napa posed a question to reporters.
“When was the last time we beat [Ateneo]? 2016? asked the National University mentor after the Bulldogs’ tense 78-74 win over the Blue Eagles in the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.
It was a question that underscored just how special National University’s win over the mighty college program was. But the feeling of victory celebration was fleeting and it was minutes after the start of the questions and answers.
“It was an ordinary game for us that we needed to build momentum…in the second round,” Napa said later.
After weeks of hammering away at how the Bulldogs needed to prove they belonged in the title favorites conversation, Napa is done pushing that narrative. It’s round two after all and the results are starting to count.
“We’re done trying to prove something,” he said. “We have to impose our name in the UAAP card.”
That’s why he said the team must return to “painful and tiring” work immediately as the Bulldogs prepare to face first-round hangman Far Eastern U (FEU).
“We can’t just rely on what we did today,” Napa said. “We really have to come out strong against the FEU…because they beat us [in the first round].”
The Tamaraws have won four in a row since the season opener from a five-game losing streak and the clash could prove crucial for a NU team currently in second place.
The top two teams at the end of the playoff round earn twice protection in the semifinals, although Napa doesn’t want to look that far.
“I don’t want to talk about the standings right now. Let’s just wait until the second round is over and see what happens,” he said. “We just have to keep working hard and see where it takes us.”
National U take on FEU in the third game of a busy four-game schedule at Smart Araneta Coliseum which starts at 11 a.m.
— Investigator sports staff
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