College of Saint Benilde head coach Charles Tiu reminded his wards not to let themselves get pushed around by a highly physical three-peat-seeking Letran College.
The Blazers held their ground despite the Knights’ physicality and even showed composure during the testy moments of Game 2 of the Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball finals Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Saint Benilde beat Letran in its own game as with a thrilling 76-71 come-from-behind win that leveled the best-of-three series to 1-1.
“We challenged their physicality. When we watched the tapes, they were hitting us,” Tiu said.
“You don’t have to be nice to them anymore. You have to play the game with respect to our opponents but you have to stand up at some point.”
Tiu even played coy on the status of sweet-shooting guard Migs Oczon, who hurt his foot in the series opener after landing on the foot of Kyle Tolentino.
He threw the Knights’ defense off when Oczon showed up to drop 15 points.
Tolentino, on the other hand was suspended in Game 2
“To be honest, I’m sorry guys. I know he’s (Oczon) going to play the whole week. I just had to tell you he wasn’t going to play just to be sure. We did a few mind games but you see how important he is for the team,” the mentor said.
But the biggest takeaway by Saint Benilde in Game 2 was the suspension slapped on Letran playmaker Fran Yu in the series decider on 18 December at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Yu, who is in his last playing year, was ejected after he threw an elbow on Blazer Mark Sangco with just 5:29 left in the second quarter.
Still, the Blazers kept their cool.
Despite missing a key player, Tiu warns his team not to be complacent as Letran still has the advantage of playoff experience and a deep roster.
“He’s a big loss for them but you can’t count them out. Kurt Reyson is experienced and he is not afraid of the big moment,” Tiu said.
“They still have a deep team. I still think we’re the underdogs and we have to find a way to just outplay them again.”