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UE vs UST: Battle of former champions

UST coach Boy Sablan (L) and UE coach Derrick Pumaren (R)

UST coach Boy Sablan (L) and UE coach Derrick Pumaren (R)

By Jerome Lagunzad

This is probably the second most-anticipated showdown on a blockbuster weekend in the UAAP basketball tournament after defending champion La Salle’s fierce encounter with archrival Ateneo tomorrow.

And University of the East coach Derrick Pumaren feels the tournament organizers should also impose a single-game ticketing scheme on the Red Warriors’ collision with fellow struggler, the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, today at 2 p.m. inside the Mall of Asia Arena.

After all, both squads are expected to give it their all in their bid to finally savor that winning feeling after running into a series of misfortunes in their first six games.

“I heard there’s gonna be a board meeting sa Sabado dahil isi-single ticket ata ‘yung game namin,” said Pumaren in jest, trying to keep himself in high spirits ahead of what many considers as “a championship match” pitting two of the most winningest schools in league history with 18 titles each.

The Growling Tigers, off to their worst start since reaching the Promised Land in 2006, are coming off a week-long respite, giving them enough time to prepare against the weary Red Warriors.

“Pagtatrabahuhan talaga namin ng maigi para makuha na namin ‘yung unang panalo,” vowed UST gunner Marvin Lee, doing his best to boost his teammates’ shattered confidence.

“Hindi rin naman namin ine-expect na magiging ganun ang start namin. Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Huwag na isipin na 0-6 kami.

Magiging experience natin ‘yan. Move on na tayo. Gawin na lang natin ang best natin sa next game.’”

That’s exactly what the Red Warriors also intend to do, with Pumaren hoping his wards can utilize whatever momentum they got in the latter part of their 106-100 loss to the Green Archers last Wednesday.

“I think we can use this positive as a springboard playing against UST,” he said, impressed with the Red Warriors’ collective fighting heart when they mounted a big fightback from a 25-point deficit in the last four minutes.

““That’s a game that even though we lost, I’m really proud of the way we played. The effort, the team I’ve been missing nung first five games namin, I saw it right there. We can’t just go down…we just got to go down fighting and they responded.”

The Tigers, whom Pumaren thinks “are stronger than their record and are playing well,” are expected to put the clamps down on Red Warriors star Alvin Pasaol who torched the Green Archers’ “Mayhem” defense with 49 points in one of the most astonishing performances in recent memory.