in Basketball, GoArchers

The View from the Armchair – Game 6 vs UST

No siree. Not this time. No way we’re losing another one after leading for most of the game.

Showing that they did pick up something from that loss to FEU, the Archers avoided another end-game collapse in upending a fighting UST squad, 61-53. Like they did against FEU, the Archers let the opponents take an early lead, then rallied to wrest the initiative in the 2nd quarter and carry it all the way into the 4th quarter, at which time the opponents then threatened with a rally of their own. But this wasn’t a case of deja vu. When UST snarled and clawed their way to within 4 points at 53-49, our boys weren’t fazed – the Archers regained their composure, their defenses stiffened, they caged the tiger and held on to take the victory.

A better start

The Archers allowed UST to take the lead 7-12 upto the closing minutes of the first quarter, when Almond strung together 6 points to almost singlehandedly power the Archers into the lead at the end of the first quarter, 15-12. The Archer defense then proceeded to bamboozle the Tigers into 8 errors in the second quarter while holding them to 10 points on 4 field goals at an 28% shooting clip to take a 37-22 halftime lead.

The guards carried the scoring load in the first half, with Almond, Simon, Luigi, and Joel accounting for 27 out of the team’s 37 points. Frontliners Jovet, Maui, and Yutien completed the scoring.

The Archers threatened to blow the game wide open when they upped the lead to 19 at 43-24, but Camus scored twice towards the end of the quarter to narrow the gap, 47-33. The 3rd quarter was a low scoring affair, UST outscoring us by a single point, 10-11.

The Tigers pounced at the beginning of the 4th behind a basket by Camus and 2 treys from Bautista to close in at 47-41. Two fgs from Maui and Jovet restored a double digit lead, but Camus and Bautista combined anew for 8 points to threaten at 53-49. Maui hit on 2 fts to give us a bit more breathing room, then Luigi sank a soft jumper in the paint followed by a Yutien undergoal stab to kill the rally, 59-49 with 1:32 to go. Camus and Bautista accounted for 18 of UST’s 20 points in the final quarter, while our firemen were our forwards, Maui, Yutien, and Jovet who tallied 12 points altogether during this crucial stretch.

What went wrong

There were some miscues with passing, showing that the teamwork can still be improved, and “gigil” that sometimes affect the finish of an otherwise well-executed play.

Did I mention free throws? Not yet? I must be slipping. They made 8 out of 13 yesterday for 61.5% Not good, when you consider that if any miss was actually made, it could be a game-decider. Like against FEU. So more practice at the foul line, please. Maybe they can get some of our Pep to do some drumming while they’re practicing their freebies, just to mimic the atmosphere and reproduce some of that noise during game time.

Our bigs also have to watch out for a common tactic of the opponents when our bigs have the ball in the paint – they watch out for the dribble and tap the ball away for a steal. That’s how many of our frontliners rack up their turnover stats, when they put the ball on the floor while maneuvering for a shot. That tactic of smaller teams says that although the smaller team may lose the battle in the air, they will not lose the battle (in the paint) on the floor.

Joshua inexplicably slumped in this game, going scoreless after doing well against FEU. He will have to be more consistent if he is to be one of the team’s threats at all times.

Our fastbreak patterns also need a bit more attention. We had 8 fastbreak attempts but only managed to score 6 points off the break. Since our defense will create such opportunities, we need to maximize these chances.

What went right

The defense. The defense. The defense. Ok, enough already.

Defense is the key to going deep into this season. Once again, we held a team to under 70 points in regulation. FEU did score 84 against us, but that was in double overtime after we allowed them only 68 points after 4 quarters. We have stingiest defense so far this season; actually, FEU’s score of 68 points is the most against us in regulation: Ateneo-63, NU-59, UE-63, UP-62, UST-53. That’s good defending. Whatever it is that the team’s doing, it seems to be working.

UST sort of “exploded” for 20 points in the 4th, as all teams in the UAAP today are capable of doing, but the way their offense was muzzled for only 33 points in the first 3 quarters speaks volumes. True, UST did have a bad game, but much of that can be attributed to the pressure they were subjected to by our players. The two Jerics, Teng and Fortuna were both held to 2 points each. Bautista managed to break free for 5 out of UST’s 6 triples in the game, but their 3point production was less than their average of 10 made treys in their previous games. We capitalized on UST’s 18 turnovers for 9 points. Oh yeah, our pressure defense also hounded UST into at least 4 shot clock violations, and forced them to chew up too much time just to get the ball into position to get a shot. Result? Bad or hurried shots, which contributed to their 34.5% overall shooting clip.

Good rebounding – we maximized our advantage in the paint by pulling down more boards, 42-35, with 15 offensive rebounds for 8 second chance points.

Our interior defense is slowly shaping up into a formidable wall – our bigs Papot, Maui and Jovet accounted for 4 blocks among themselves.

Our offense, while nothing to shout about yet, is getting it done for us. Yesterday, our guards carried the load in the first half, and our forwards did the job in the second half. We have a lot of arrows in the sling: shooters, scorers, slashers, and with these many options, the Archers can usually produce enough points to stay in the game, and let the defense hold down the opponents for a win. Most of the time, that is.

Maui deserves special mention as the silent but effective member of the team. He again topped our rebounding with 9, and made things very difficult for UST in the paint on both ends.

Coach Dindo and his staff are proving to be very adroit at using scouting information to dissect the opponents and come up with a working game plan. This caused FEU a lot of discomfort for most of our game with them, and against UST the game plan worked even when UST made a run to cut the lead to 4 late in the game. The team’s execution of the plans has also been very good.

Coach Dindo again distributed the playing time among 12 players, with Maui logging the most minutes at 31, followed by Simon at 25.

The rookie watch

Almond and Luigi shared the spotlight against UST, logging almost identical minutes at 22 and 21 respectively, with both tallying 8 points in addition to their contributions in other areas: rebounding (Almond-5, Luigi-1) and assists (Almond-2, Luigi-3). Oda played 4 minutes and connected on a basket. Papot was on the floor for 10 minutes, hit his only fg attempt, and blocked 2 shots on top of his 3 rebounds.

The sophomores

Joel finally found his touch from outside, making both of his treys for 6 points, assisting twice with one steal. Yutien scored 6 points around the basket, hauled down 2 boards, and kept the UST bigs away from the ring. Sam had an off day offensively with only 2 points but more than made up for it with his 8 rebounds; he is shaping up into a fine, all-around player instead of being just the pure shooter he was once touted to be.

DNPs

Reyes, Elorde, Herrera, Banal

Looking forward

Adamson looms up next – a team with excellent pgs in Canada and Alvarez, plus mobile bigs. Just the formula to frustrate the Archers, like they did in the second round of last season. Last year, the guards killed us with their perimeter jumpers, penetrations, and drive-and-dish to their bigs. Coach Austria now plays Canada and Alvarez as an interchangeable 1-2 on the floor, which he did against FEU yesterday, and it has roughly the same impact as our playing Simon at the 2. However, we can now match up better this year, our perimeter defense is better and more active (right, UST?), and our bigs are now more adept at stopping the drive (and dish). This is a fight for joint second: the winner will finish at 5-2, and Ateneo is tipped to win over UP and UE for a similar 5-2 record. Let’s see if our young team can surprise the doubters who felt that we would end up in the bottom half of the standings this year.

This is a promising team but it’s not making any promises yet. So you’d better watch the game and see how fast they’re developing. If you miss a game or even blink, you might just miss something.