Coming back from the dugout after the halftime break, my eyes immediately tuned into the body language of the DLSU Green Archers. Instead of pumped up, raring-to-go-back and pardon the pun, “fighting” attitudes, what I saw were bowed heads with Animo-less demeanors.
Like deers in headlights, La Salle did not expect UP’s rude Season 78 welcome as well as their hot 48% first half shooting en route to yielding a 28-41 disadvantage at intermission.
The team’s 15/26 (57.7%) from the charity stripe stuck out like a sore thumb especially with the losing margin of only five points.
For the first 20 minutes of the game, everything seemed to go wrong for the boys in green after an inspiring win over NU last Sunday: cold 0/9 shooting from beyond the arc; lack of ball movement, good passes and teamwork which resulted into only four assists and a deep UP bench that scored 29 of their game total 44 points.
It was an afternoon to forget: pushing the pace resulted into careless passes and turnovers while trying to setup La Salle’s half court offense could only muster bad shots and ugly-looking misses.
A three-pointer by Thomas Torres to open the third cut the Fighting Maroons lead to 10 but could not provide the spark and lift that the Archers needed to close the gap. Sophomore Prince Rivero was the lone bright spot, scoring 10 of his total 15 points in the first three periods to keep DLSU within striking distance, 42-54 entering the final canto.
The last 10 minutes were a display of DLSU’s missed opportunities combined with breaks of the game favoring UP. Rivero scored a inside basket with 2:14 remaining to cut the lead to six, 58-64 but the Fighting Maroons went steady at the line, knocking down 7 of 10 from the line inside the final minute to hand La Salle an even 1-1 record in Season 78.
Taking advantage of mismatches at the wings
While La Salle’s front court is still solid, the team’s lack of ceiling on the wings was taken full advantage by UP’s tall guards. Jett Manuel, Paul Desiderio and Piero Longa combined for 37 points and eight assists; exposing the size and experience disadvantages of rookies Andrei Caracut and Jollo Go to the hilt.
To make matters worse, team captain Jeron Teng and Torres combined to shoot 7/24 from the field and together had more turnovers (six) than assists (four). Thomas’ off-target shooting was highlighted by going 1/9 from deep before a non-bearing convention at the buzzer ended his trigger-happy outing and settled the final score at 66-71.
The return of an old nemesis: free throws
The team’s 15/26 (57.7%) from the charity stripe stuck out like a sore thumb especially with the losing margin of only five points. La Salle was actually solid in the opening half, going 10 out of 14, before making less than half of their charities after halftime (5/12).
Although more players were fielded by the coaching staff, the team is now beginning to feel the impact of losing “should-have-been-included” players on the roster. AVO (graduation), Ben Mbala (ineligibility) and the trio of Matt Salem, Robert Bolick, Terrence Mustre (transfer) would not only have given DLSU more firepower but also the necessary experience in the UAAP men’s basketball wars.
After yielding the battle of the boards to NU last game, it was great to see La Salle winning the battle of the boards, 50-37, with Prince corralling a game-high 11 rebounds. Despite being the smaller team, DLSU’s 22-16 advantage in offensive boards translated into +12 margin (17-5) in second chance points and +18 (34-16) in inside points.
Sans the three-point area, the Green Archers were actually decent from the field, shooting 21/42 for a 50% clip. After giving up 41 first half points, La Salle’s defense improved in the latter half by limiting UP’s output to 30 and even manage to outscore the Maroons, 24-17 in the fourth.
With a big match-up against season favorite FEU on Sunday, it’s back to the drawing board for DLSU and its coaching staff. Blown defensive coverages, better press breaks and improved offensive tactics are tall tasks, especially when given only three days to do. It will take a lot of mental more than physical work to beat a strong team like the Tamaraws and it starts with the right frame of mind, heads unbowed and positive attitudes.
Animo La Salle!