The De La Salle Green Archers came off with a nervy 67-63 against the defending champions, the National University Bulldogs to start the season with a 1-0 record. The Archers started strong against the Bulldogs easily establishing an early double digit lead. The Bulldogs fought back to cut the deficit to as low as 2 points but the Archers managed to keep the lead and come off with a deserved win.
Defense versus Defense
The prevailing theme dating back to last season was the defensiveness of both teams – with key difference. Last season, the Archers were taller and could muscle their way inside with the trio of Perkins, Norbert Torres and Van Opstal. They guards of DLSU would match up well against NU’s guards which is why many considered DLSU to be NU’s achilles heel. Should the game remain defensive, DLSU will likely come away with the spoils.
This year is a little bit different – the Archers are now shorter but still have the firepower to match NU’s championship winning squad. One could argue that man for man, NU would be better given that they have Alfred Aroga.
Much talked about was how the Archers embraced the small ball in the absence of a traditional big man. The absence of a traditional big man however, means that when going up against teams with traditional big men, it’s about management – and the Archers managed the game in that respect:
The first is to double team the big man forcing cross court passes. In the first half, the Archers contained Aroga by double teaming him and forcing him to make a dangerous cross-court pass to the open man.
The second was to utilize the increased athleticism and speed of the DLSU bigs in order to get their big man in foul trouble – exactly what Perkins, Rivero and Tratter did.
By playing hard ball on the guards of NU and containing the big men, it was quite easy for DLSU to establish a double digit lead over the champions.
It would be foolish for Coach Eric to continue his plays given that Coach Juno found away to neutralize the threat of the Bulldogs. Essentially, he made a smart switch and took a gamble that paid off.
First, NU decided that there would be no more cross-court passes should the big man be double teamed. That meant that good 3 point shooters in the form of Alolino and Alejandro, along with the other forwards and guards capable of hitting a three, would crowd the same side where the big man was. On the kick-out, there would be motion among those players to ensure that one guy – likely Alejandro, would have a wide open shot. A smart move by Coach Eric to cut the lead down.
When Aroga wasn’t on the floor, it was motion offense from NU – often with the shooter in the post coming off multiple screens before launching a shot from beyond the arc.
The second move was a gamble on the part of the Bulldogs to employ a fullcourt press – especially since the Archers managed to break the fullcourt press early in the ballgame with ease.
The Bulldogs maintained the fullcourt press throughout the fourth quarter which forced the DLSU guards into costly turnovers. This allowed them to get back to the game easily but also exposed that deficiencies of a full court press – which DLSU only managed to take advantage of at one point when NU wasn’t able to set-up their defense and Prince Rivero had an open lay-up in the fourth quarter.
The game would have been over sooner without the nervy ending if DLSU managed the full court press the same way the managed it during the first 3 quarters – essentially by helping the ball handler up court, overloading the back and getting a possible free basket if the bulldogs haven’t set up.
The turnover sequence of Thomas Torres and Andrei Caracut was not only due to the defense of NU, but the lack of team cohesion in beating the fullcourt press and the lack of awareness from the ballhandler.
The team should manage the fullcourt press with better efficiency in order to stand a chance against other teams.
DLSU essentially outplayed the Bulldogs for majority of the game, shooting much better (39% v 29%) despite having less possessions (NU with 9 more offensive rebounds and 1 less turnover).
The defense and the subsequent fouling out of Aroga contributed to the win nullifying the clear advantage NU had over De La Salle.
However, the turnover sequence towards the end almost cost the game for La Salle. Pressing requires an entire team to pressure the ball handler – it’s unfair to expect the point guard or the shooting guard to break them down where other players should also help out. With that said, there is much imporvement for the team as a whole if they want to go all the way.