Pressure to win too much for UP, says Palami

MANILA, Philippines – For a brief period, University of the Philippines happily celebrated being 2-0 and on top of the UAAP men's basketball tournament standings of Season 78. 

But that seems like another lifetime ago as the Fighting Maroons have fallen again into a pattern of losing, dropping 3 straight games for a 2-3 record at 7th place.

Team manager Dan Palami blamed the huge pressure to win as the reason for the Diliman-based squad's downward spiral.

"I think winning the first two games has put them under a lot of pressure – pressure that they’re not used to," explained Palami, emerging from the locker room by halftime of the day's second game. "That’s why they feel it’s necessary to perform beyond what they should be doing so we force shots. We are unable to execute properly."

"In practices they’re able to do that but in the game I think it’s just lack of maturity for some of the players to handle this kind of pressure. I hope they get through this as soon as possible," he added.

After losses to UST and FEU, UP fell against defending champion NU Bulldogs, 68-52, on Saturday, September 26. UP was the victim to a surging NU squad who now rides a 3-game winning streak after stumbling out of the gates at 0-3.

It took close to an hour before the Maroons began trickling out from the dugout. According to Palami, there was a lengthy discussion about the team that's been roughly pulled back down to earth after the high of a promising start.

"There seems to be some sort of disconnect from the preparation to the execution when it comes to game time so that’s something we have to fix and fix really fast so that we can still be on target with our goal," Palami shared what the team talked about after the game inside the somber locker room.

The Maroons have been toiling in the UAAP men's basketball cellar for many years and haven't won a title since 1986.

"It’s really more of frustration because they knew they prepared well but they just didn’t click when game time came so that’s what we have to find out."

But that's not to say UP is done for good. The first round is not yet over, and there is still the second round for them to get back on track and gun for their Final Four goal.

However, they can't dwell on their situation for too long in a season that can easily blow by with a blink of an eye.

The Maroons will have 4 days to attempt to have themselves sorted out by the time they face another streaking team in Ateneo.

"I think it’s a mental thing," Palami said. "So that’s actually more difficult to fix but we hope to be able to do it before the game against Ateneo." –