Ayo: Lack of defense did us in

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    SPARE the players.

    University of Santo Tomas coach Aldin Ayo gamely took all the blame for his squad’s disappointing 77-91 loss to defending two-time champion and unbeaten Ateneo last Saturday in Game 1 of their best-of-3 titular showdown for the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament crown.

    “We played bad, really bad. We were not executing. Some players did not play their usual game. But I think the problem is coaching staff. Tingin ko we were not able to prepare them well. There were situations na hindi namin nadaanan sa practice so, on our part, we just want to be patient,” said Ayo.

    “I told the players that we just have to handle this loss the right way. That means going back to our videos and titingnan namin kung ano iyong mali. We have to correct them,” he added.

    The Growling Tigers try to bounce back tomorrow in Game 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena and forge a deciding match. Game 3, if necessary, will be played on Saturday at the same venue.

    UST trailed early on but thanks to the exploits of Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy, the Tigers closed the gap at 38-41 before the Blue Eagles countered with a big run of their own for a 54-39 bulge at the turn and a 76-58 lead heading into the final 10 minutes. The Tigers never recovered from there.

    Ayo also insisted the setback was not merely because of Ateneo forward Thirdy Ravena, who erupted for a season-high 32 points to go with five rebounds and three assists.

    It was UST’s defense that was nowhere to be found in the finals opener, according to Ayo.

    “It’s not about Thirdy (Ravena). Ngayon, nandoon iyong points ni Thirdy because of our (poor) transition defense. He played well,” said Ayo.

    “If we want to stop them, we’ll have to stop the whole team. If you focus on Thirdy only, the other guys will step up also. (But) hopefully, we can cover him on Wednesday.”