HIGHLIGHTS: UP vs UST - UAAP Season 82 stepladder semifinals
MANILA, Philippines – Much has been said about the talent of the UP Fighting Maroons.
As the No. 2 team parading MVPs, former champions, and Mythical Five members, there are many reasons to pick UP as the likely challenger to outright finalist Ateneo.
However, there’s still another puzzle the Maroons have yet to solve, and it’s standing in their way to a return trip to the finals – the UST Growling Tigers.
In two games this season, the Aldin Ayo-coached Tigers have convincingly beaten the Maroons by an average margin of 11 points.
That’s why UP coach Bo Perasol wants to remind his wards that even if they tote a twice-to-beat advantage, the Tigers had beaten them twice this season.
“I told them that we have to honor our position by preparing really hard because while it is true that we are in the position we’re in, it's not a sure thing that we're going to the Finals," said Perasol.
The fight for the last UAAP Season 82 men's basketball title berth kicks off on Sunday, November 10 at 4 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A UP win would propel the Maroons back to a best-of-three title series against the Blue Eagles.
A UST victory, however, would force a do-or-die match for the last Finals seat on Wednesday.
Although the Tigers wound up as the fourth-seeded team, they could have very well claimed the Maroons’ spot had mid-season hiccups not brought them down.
But UST looked to have regained its fiery form, and last Wednesday, dispatched the FEU Tamaraws, 81-71, in the first game of the stepladder semifinals.
The Tigers also house new league MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo and Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy along with reliable stalwarts like Rhenz Abando, Renzo Subido and Brent Paraiso.
Ayo, though, doesn’t want his team to get caught up with previous games.
"Some of you will say that we are 2-0 against UP, but they are a different team right now," he said. "And what happened in the elimination won’t matter anymore because they’re a different team and this is the Final Four."
Of course, Ayo also knows UP's knack for pulling through tight situations behind team stars Kobe Paras, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Jun Manzo, and last season’s MVP Bright Akhuetie.
Will clear skies greet UP in its ascent or will UST's rain of threes cause turbulence in their flight?
Follow Rappler's live blog for updates:UAAP82: UP vs UST - Curated tweets by RapplerSports