NU Bulldogs endure hot tempers, long week to finally win again
MANILA, Philippines – National University finally had a breakthrough with its first win after 6 straight losses on Saturday, November 5, ending a long and hard week of nose-to-the-grindstone practices and some flaring tempers.
NU reached a 5-8 record after blitzing University of the East, 64-52, and remained alive in the Final Four race, though its chances hinge on the records of other contending teams.
The Bulldogs endured a very difficult week after losing to the University of the Philippines on October 26, and it tested the team's resolve and patience.
"Dami pinagdaanan ng team ngayon second round," shared team captain Jay Alejandro. "Nagkakainitan na kami kasi sa sobrang competitive ng practices namin. Lahat mainit ulo, coaches and players. Yung one week parang one year sa amin e. Sobrang haba e."
(We went through a lot in this second round. Tempers are flaring because practices are so competitive. Coaches and players are hot-headed. That one week felt like a year for us. It was very long.)
It's been a difficult season for the 2014 UAAP champions, dubbed as Final Four contenders this year, as they stumbled to an uneasy 4-3 record in the first round and then slumped through the second round.
And as the Bulldogs groped their way around in the dark mess of a string of defeats, they found themselves losing their identity.
"Just like any other young team you lose your confidence and you start losing your identity," Altamirano admitted the difficulty they had to hurdle.
"I keep reminding the boys to just be who you are, you don't have to be somebody you're not. I know sometimes they have good intentions and they want to win but sometimes the execution is wrong. We try to focus on the process."
"The last couple of games have been difficult, to be honest," said Matt Salem, who dropped a game-high 20 points in the victory, including 11 huge points in the fourth quarter to stop UE in its tracks for good.
"We wanted to win. Right now we're just going to focus on the next one. We just got to do it for each other and work together as a team."
The long break due to the All Souls' Day holiday – and all the agitation and frustration in between – proved helpful in more ways than one for NU.
"We just stuck to the process and we went back to the basics, finding our identity back. It was a hard week for us, they know that," Altamirano said as Salem nodded in agreement beside him.
"At least now alam na namin yung feeling na ganito," said the fourth year Alejandro, who chipped in 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists against UE, admitting the team grew closer because of what they went through.
"Sana sa next game, Final Four, or next seaon alam na namin paano bumalik sa ganito."
(At least now we know how this feels. I hope next game, the Final Four, or next season we learn how to bounce back from something like this.)
NU has one final game to end the elimination round against Adamson on November 13. It'll be a waiting game after that as teams finish off their respective games.
"We hope it's not too late for us. We want to hurdle our last assignment with Adamson. I hope we still have a chance," Altamirano said. "We're not giving up. Whatever happens to this season we're going to give it our best shot." – Rappler.com