Altamirano all business during game, but ‘UP by heart’ after season

MANILA, Philippines – NU Bulldogs head coach Eric Altamirano concentrates on his current task whenever he goes up against the University of the Philippines, but admits he will always have strong ties to his old school when not going against them on the basketball court.

“Every year naman, I meet UP. Siyempre (Of course), I have to do my job as an NU coach, so pagdating sa laro (when it comes to the games), I don’t think about that,” Altamirano answered about how he feels defeating his old school following the Bulldogs win over the Maroons on Saturday, October 1.

The victory improved the record of National U to 4-2 in UAAP Season 79, while UP dropped to 1-6 at the conclusion of its first-round campaign.

“After ng (the) season, siyempre (of course), I’m a UP by heart,” said the Bulldogs head coach.

Altamirano’s name will always be famous in UP sports lore. In the 1986 UAAP season, he was named league MVP and led the Maroons to the league title – the last time the premiere state university carried the trophy.

But Altamirano doesn't entertain such memories whenever he’s on the opposing end against the Maroons.

Importante kasi bawat laro, so we cannot afford to relax in any game. Kailangan kahit sino kalaban namin, wala munang alma mater. Kailangan focus muna kami sa laro.”

(Each game is important, so we cannot afford to relax in any game. No matter who our opponent is, your alma mater doesn't come into play. We need to focus first on the game.)

NU looked like it would cruise to an easy win after going ahead by 11 at halftime on Saturday, but UP – as Altamirano expected – clawed its way back and was down only by two at one point in the final period.

“We knew UP was going to be a tough team to play, and I reminded the boys – especially after the first half – that this team is capable of coming back,” said Altamirano.

“They’ve shown that in the other games. Unfortunately, we didn’t play good defense in the second half. We gave up too many points – mostly from turnovers – I think we did not take care of the ball again.”

The Bulldogs eventually sealed the win by scoring 6 straight points after UP cut the deficit to 59-57. 

Matt Salem had the best game of his UAAP career with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting plus 6 boards. Rookie JV Gallego had his breakout game, registering 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.

“It was a good test of character for us,” said Altamirano. 

“We were starting to go back to what happened in our previous games, but we re-grouped and it’s good that I could see some improvement in terms of finishing strong.” –