After that gut-wrenching victory against arch-rivals Ateneo last Sunday, the Green Archer-freight train will look to continue its travel, this time around on the other Quezon City-based university in the eight-member UAAP list, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons. UP’s celebration was cut short at the start of the 2nd round since after that morale-boosting victory against Adamson, the Fighting Maroons got derailed right away by the University of the East Red Warriors.
I am not sure if the injuries that in the Green Archers’ camp will be enough to help out the Fighting Maroons on Saturday because I think the holdovers (for now) can still man the fort for the green and white. La Salle dominated the first round encounter because of inside points (38 out of DLSU’s 74 points in the game). This is not just about attacking the paint via low post plays which Norbert and Jason did. This also includes the dribble penetration plays of Jeron Teng, which did most of the damage in the game. With no shot blocker in sight, Jeron just towed his way towards the basket at will. Jeron showed this against Ateneo last Sunday and I expect this one to continue on Saturday.
I don’t see any changes on Saturday on this strategy for the Green Archers. UP still lacks that inside defensive presence that will alter shots and make Jeron, Jason, Prince, Abu, and even Julian to hesitate and think before taking the ball to the rack. Maybe Andrew Harris can be UP’s answer? But if UP’s coaching staff plans to let him play for only six minutes in the game, then I really do not see anyone rim protecting for UP on Saturday.
If UP goes zone and lets the Green Archers shoot from the outside, I think the Green Archers have slowly answered these concerns based on their game against UST last Sunday wherein the Growling Tigers went into a zone but still the Green Archers were able to respond by giving Jeron the ball at the top on the elbow side then a screen comes in which allows Jeron to have the space to either attack the basket to launch a mid-range shot.
If the defense collapses on him, Jeron has the options to pass the ball to the open shooter, which he did for Jason’s dagger three to give DLSU a 77-64 lead last Sunday or rotate the ball more on the weak side where Julian is waiting in the corner to launch his triple or attack the basket again if the defender over commits to Julian’s ability to shoot the ball from deep. That opens up again for another series of offensive opportunities for the Green Archers whether to attack the basket or issue drop passes inside the paint to Prince, Abu, and Yutien.
At this point, the Green Archers are seventh in the league on three-point shooting with 22.1% so I do not blame opposing teams go zone on DLSU and let them shoot from deep rather than maximize their strength inside the paint. But so far, I am happy with the way the coaching staff has been adjusting on how to attack the zone defense, not relying solely on passing around the perimeter to take long bombs and instead, still pick inside scoring as its first option before going to the outside if open.
Defensively, just like all other teams, UP will try to get that mismatch on Almond early on. Kyles Lao and Dave Moralde will be assigned to do such by flashing deep into the paint after a series of screens and try to score from there since both tower over Almond as far as height is concerned. But of course, DLSU had proven that they can counter such measures so this is just more of a warning sign since all teams have this in their playbook to try and take away Almond’s rhythm early in the game.
Mikee Reyes and Henry Asilum will be the players tasked to run the pick and roll along with Juruena and Gallarza. Reyes and Gallarza worked well against Adamson so let’s see if they will get more touches to run this set on Saturday. Problem is that both big men (Juruena and Gallarza) are more adept to running the pick and pop set since both have the touch from the perimeter, with Gallarza extending way deep to the three-point line. With a perceived smaller DLSU front line on Saturday, let’s see if the Fighting Maroons will dare to take it inside the paint and produce points from the shaded area.
If UP sees DLSU as a relatively poor perimeter shooting team, I think the same thing also can be applied to UP. The Fighting Maroons shot only 10/58 from the perimeter in their first round encounter so this can also be another defensive ploy but the Green Archers have to make sure to get the rebounds as UP mustered 19 offensive rebounds in the process for 11 second chance points. Defensive rebounds can start breaks that can help set the tempo early for DLSU.
UP’s low post options rely still on former LSGH stalwart Gelo Vito and Dave Moralde. Moralde is a better low post player for me although Vito can get points from the low block as well from time to time. Let’s see if Vito can stand banging bodies with Abu, Jason, or possibly Prince on Saturday. I do not expect that much of a low post scoring from UP on Saturday since I believe that DLSU’s active front court players can man the paint just like what they did against Abdul and company last Sunday.
DLSU cannot be complacent against UP. I personally believe that DLSU’s coaching staff will not allow this to happen but still, constant reminder to the team will not hurt. UP has enough talent to play hard and push themselves to the limit and try to take a win on Saturday. I mean, if a team plays too relaxed, this UP team can take the game away from you. If the focus on the first round meeting will be present (especially the good, fast start to take the game away from UP from the get-go), I see the Green Archers’ freight train continue to claim another passenger to place in its storage box and a good warm up against the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday.