MANILA, Philippines - The DLSU Green Archers saw their seven-game winning streak come to a halt on Wednesday, August 27, as the FEU Tamaraws exploded on offense in the second half to beat their long-time rivals and take sole possession of first place in Season 77's UAAP men's basketball tournament with an 8-2 record.
In the defeat, La Salle led by as much as 12 in the first half and allowed FEU to score only 26 points in the game's first 20 minutes before letting the Tamaraws score as many points in the third quarter alone.
Outside of Norbert Torres and his 13 points, the Green Archers didn't get much on offense from their other guys besides Jeron Teng, who paced the defending champions with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
In a conversation with the media following the game, the third-year star didn't hide his disappointment over a game which he felt La Salle should have won.
"Syempre, sayang, dahil (Of course we regret it because) we could have won it and we were up nung (during the) first half eh," Teng said.
When asked what went wrong as FEU flipped the script of the game in the third and fourth quarters, Teng admitted to not watching a replay of the contest yet, though he did mention that a huge reason why La Salle fell to 7-3 instead of improving to 8-2 was because of lack of "mental focus."
"We lacked mental focus lang talaga (we just really lacked mental focus), especially in the end - yung (the) free throw and rebound," a disgruntled Teng said, pertaining to the failure of La Salle's frontcourt to box out Mike Tolomia after he missed his second free throw attempt in the dying seconds of the game.
Had DLSU - whom pundits regard as the biggest squad in the UAAP - corralled the board, they would have been down only two, 72-70, with a handful of seconds remaining on the clock to either tie or win the game.
Teng, besides finishing two markers shy of his second 30-point output in Season 77, also converted 3-out-of-6 from three-point range during the game.
"We haven't checked the tape yet. We'll learn from that mistake. For sure may nagkamali (mistakes were made) and, wala (I guess), we'll just try to learn from that."
DLSU will have the chance to make up for their loss to FEU when they take on the slumping Adamson Soaring Falcons, losers of 10 straight, on Sunday, August 31, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the Green Archers currently slotted in fourth place in the league standings at 7-3 - tied with Ateneo and NU - every win matters from here on out if Teng and company wish to attain a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four round.
"Yeah, syempre (of course), every game we take it seriously talaga (we really take it seriously). Especially itong (this) second round, every game is crucial eh."
After dealing with the Falcons, the Green Archers will have the UST Growling Tigers, UE Red Warriors, and NU Bulldogs left on their schedule. In order to have a better shot against the aforementioned squads, Teng says La Salle will need to improve its performance on the defensive side of the floor.
"I think it wasn't on our offensive end yung may (that had) a problem; I think it was in the defensive end. Kasi (because) first half we limited them down with 26 points, but second half, it blew up eh," La Salle's starting small forward mentioned.
And despite getting ample support from his teammates on Wednesday, Teng insists that La Salle both wins and loses together as team, while also indicating that the faith he has in his teammates has not wavered.
" I believe in my teammates talaga (I really do) and siguro (maybe) coming into this game hindi lang kami ganoon ka focus (we just weren't that focused)."
As Teng put it: "Feeling ko mental (focus) lang talaga eh."
(It was just our mental focus that was lacking.)