KIU Titans and Warriors, tied at one-all in the best-of-five semifinal National Basektball League play-off series, return to action for a crunch game three this evening at the MTN arena Lugogo.
Having finished the regular season as number one seeds with only two losses from 22 games, Warriors are under more pressure to succeed. KIU finished fifth, which means they are the weaker side that lost seven and won 15 games.
However, KIU Titans, who knocked out UCU Canons at the quarterfinal stage, have thrived on the psychology of the underdog to tame their more illustrious opponents.
Titans coach Brian Wathum, who assumed the position after his former superior Hamza Nyambogo was sacked before the play-offs, concurs.
“I have reassured the team that they are good players and also allowed them to play with freedom; not to fear and make mistakes,” Wathum explains.
That has relieved KIU, and brought the best out of them.
“These are play-offs, and the players know what is expected of them, even without constantly reminding them,” Wathum said.
Indeed, after falling behind in the series, KIU recovered in game two in which they shot and defended better to thwart Warriors. KIU won 71-55 because they rushed Warriors, disabling their rhythm.
Warriors big men (Phillip Ameny and Saidi Amisi) failed to function, yet they are their main weapon. Tom Ocamringa, a former Nkumba Marines coach, noted that unless Warriors guards support their big men, they will find KIU difficult.
Warriors coach Ronnie Mutebi said complacency has affected his team.