The pressure cooker that is UP-UST Game 2
There is no tomorrow for both the Soulemane Chabi Yo-led UST Growling Tigers and the UP Fighting Maroons. Cagadas
The pressure cooker that is UP-UST Game 2
Rick Olivares ( - November 12, 2019 - 1:18pm

MANILA, Philippines – Game Two. Do or die. Win or go home. 

There are so many ways to put how big and crucial this match-up between the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas on Wednesday.

National Basketball Association star Charles Barkley once said that “pressure is something that goes into tires.” Whether the Round Mound of Rebound was playfully parrying the pressure of having to win or he was being his joyous and quotable self, the fact remains that games such as Game Two between UP and UST are the proverbial pressure cooker.

It is easy to say that UST has the momentum after their 89-69 win over UP. I think there is ample time for the Fighting Maroons to get that loss out of their mind, but to also prepare for Game Two. 

Having said that, the pressure really is on UP.

They had built this team of stars and they had gone abroad for all this training and participation in tournaments. Last year when they made the finals, they were just happy to get there. Now, well, there are expectations. Big expectations especially after all the noises they have been making.

Even if UST does not win, this season represents a massive turnaround for their program. The onus is on the UP coaching staff and their players to pull a rabbit out of their hat. 

However, people have to look at the big picture. Sure, there are expectations. But that championship window still has not closed (barring unforeseen movements in the off-season). They will still have this team around for at least another year (aside from Jun Manzo and their one and done player).

The two teams — UP and UST — have some similarities. They aren’t teams that were slowly built up. They have some components who are homegrown and then there are the recruits and the transferees. 

And usually you do that instead of the slow burn of teams like Ateneo to win now. And this is now.

For UST, since that finals stint of 2012-13, they have been marred by all sorts of on and off court controversies with all sorts of rumors circulating around the team. While they still have not been spared this season (read: Rhenz Abando), the optimism generated by this team has given them hope that they have put their dark days behind.

They have a team of blue chip players, transferees and unknowns and misfits who are playing with a chip on their shoulder.

I think UST’s Aldin Ayo shrewdly built his team. He had his holdovers — players he inherited — and those he brought on board. In Letran, he utilized a veteran team that was put together by Louie Alas and gained a lot of experience under Caloy Garcia. Over at La Salle, he had a powerhouse team that he inherited and had won a title. When Ben Mbala joined that team, they turned into a juggernaut.

This UST team, well… he built it into what it is. Mayhem on the offensive end. 

Even if they fall short, one can still say that they are a work in progress. 

Again, however and wherever they finish, this season adds to Ayo’s credentials. He has buckled down to coach. Really coach.

Both teams are gifted offensively. Big shots will be made, but it will come down to who can affect the other defensively.

I thought that UP was lucky that UST was in turmoil for their second round meeting that they won. Now, UST is whole once more, they are a tough nut to crack.

The shoe is on the other foot…. UP looks disjointed.

What they can hope for is to keep the game close to UST. The close matches won in season will help them in good stead. If the Growling Tigers put on a lead, that’s it.

The pressure is on.

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