MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University is in an unfamiliar situation in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament as the Green Archers find themselves near the bottom of the league standings.
With just one win to show after four games – a narrow triumph over National University – La Salle currently sits at seventh place in the rankings.
It is certainly something that the Green Archers are uncomfortable with, given the usual expectations for the team heading into the season.
"To be honest mababa 'yung parang confidence namin. Kasi 'yung La Salle may standards sila, mataas naman talaga. Laging nananalo," noted La Salle veteran Aljun Melecio.
"Pero this time, nasa ibang situation kami," he added.
The Green Archers dropped to 1-3 on Wednesday afternoon after succumbing to Far Eastern University, 66-55.
It was a tough outing that saw La Salle struggle on offense; they shot just 31.43% from the field for the game. Melecio was 2-of-12 from the field and scored just 5 points; Jamie Malonzo had 20 points but needed 24 shots to get there.
La Salle's active consultant, Jermaine Byrd, acknowledged that the Tamaraws "played a good game," but his players' offensive woes had more to do with them than with FEU's defense.
"I thought we played well enough to win the game. I just thought we just didn't make any shots," he said.
"I think it was just one of those days. I mean, give credit to them. That's a well-coached team, that's a good team, that's a good coach over there. But again, basketball is a make or miss game," he also said.
The Green Archers got the shots they wanted, and indeed both Melecio and Malonzo were able to get open shots from beyond the arc.
"We just didn't make 'em," said Byrd. "You know, we just didn't make 'em."
Byrd is well aware that La Salle's record is a cause of concern not just for their team but also for their community, and he knows that the way they are playing invites criticism as well.
The Green Archers have already dropped their rivalry game to Ateneo, and gave up a game-winner to University of the East's Rey Suerte last weekend before Wednesday's loss to FEU.
Their only win came because of a Kurt Lojera game-winner against National University, after they had already squandered a 14-point lead in the final quarter.
"I know a lot of people are gonna write us off. I know a lot of people are gonna bash my team and bash myself, and bash my kids. When I say kids, I mean the players," said Byrd.
"But you know, we're gonna keep fighting," he added emphatically.
Byrd pointed out that the season is far from over for them despite their subpar record.
"We still have a couple more games to go in the first round. We just have to use this as motivation," he said. "Again, like I said, we know a lot of people are writing us off. We know people didn't give us a chance before the season even started."
"So the things we just have to work on, we just have to stay together," he added.
This means keeping the circle small, and sticking together.
"We just have to understand that it's 16-strong, plus the coaches. We have to understand that it's just us," said Byrd.
"We love our fans, but we understand that they're frustrated and disappointed, and we are, too. But we're not gonna stop fighting, we're gonna keep grinding," he added.
La Salle returns to action on Saturday against Adamson University.
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