October 6, 2013

DLSU 77, UST 70: What went wrong for UST (and what went right for DLSU)

Either it "won't be today" or there will be a "parade today". No middle grounds (Imagine if basketball had draws. That would be like kissing your sister.) on the result of Game 2 of the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball finals. In the end, La Salle built a large enough lead to prevent any incursion from UST. But how?

UST were very fortunate to win Game 1. Unlike Ateneo's well-deserved 2006 Game 1 win, that is still remembered by many, UST were lucky enough that La Salle missed that last gasp short stab to the basket. In any case, that's a win, and in a best-of-X series, it's all that matters.

As what Pido had told the press, fouls and offensive rebounds killed UST. Let's put that into perspective:

In the earliest part in the game, La Salle were actually threatening to pull away, but Jeric Teng ably sank perimeter jumpers to keep the game close. This would be the premonition for UST's game, as Jeric would have to produce monster numbers -- game-high 28 points -- in order to keep the Tigers in striking distance.

UST's defense is actually good, as they forced the Archers into poor shooting. But poor shooting gives the opponent a chance to grab offensive rebounds, and with La Salle's hefty trio of Van Opstal, Perkins and Torres, with only two of them on court at any time, mind you, their shooters from outside have the license to shoot those jumpers, open or not. Those open jumpers were not that plenty, but UST's frontline of Abdul, Ferrer and Mariano has no answer to La Salle's "Huge 3".

And while the rebounding battle was being fought, UST's undersized big men were giving away fouls that Yeng Guiao will be pissed at. For example, Karim Abdul's third foul, in the second quarter, was off a rebound fight, and it was the slightest of bumps, but was actually the right call. Abdul would have the leave on the court, then have to play the rest of the second half with token defense. This actually led to more offensive rebounds.

Now I don't know why La Salle were missing those shots, but whatever they did, it opened opportunities for them to score anew. Now the question is, for La Salle, is would they sustain this, and for UST, how can you break it?


Here are your courtside reporters prior to Game 2.

Following the mantra of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," DLSU should keep on missing, and get second chance points in return, until UST figures out what to do. LA Revilla, who was absent in Game 1, had nine points. Four of his teammates were in double figures, and only seven Lasallians played. Juno Sauler used a seven man rotation: and that mostly rotates on their "Huge 3" of AVO, The Bear and Perkins (gotta have a monicker for the dude).

As for UST, they tried doing zone defense in Game 1, but it was ineffective as they couldn't get rebounds either. The "first possession" defense is holding, it is the defensive rebounding that isn't. Probably time for Pido to unleash the Tiong Lian connection. Come on Pido, a monster game from Kim Lo would be all that needs so that Tricia Santos would be his girlfriend. UST has incapable rebounding guards, so a zone defense might actually give out an identical result to whatever rebounding strategy they did for Game 2.

So OK, DLSU can score on their possession, so why can't UST score themselves? Was La Salle playing exceptionally good defense? Or there wasn't any flow to the UST offense? It was more of the latter. Majority of Jeric Teng's 28 points were either from his patented moves, forced shots that magically went in, or both. The offensive rhythm was close to nonexistent. Much of Karim Abdul's field goals came from drives to the baskets from the top of the key; his shots from his post-up moves were either missed or were blocked.

Aside from Teng and Abdul, no Thomasian barged into double figures. Aljon Mariano got nine, and Kevin Ferrer scored six. Ferrer's situation was unfortunate as he was saddled with foul trouble, then when he started heating up, he got called for another foul, and would have to be benched. On the times he was at the court, Ferrer must have missed on all of his threes.

Finally, what the La Salle defense did great was their interior defense. Again, with their "Huge 3" (of which 2 only play at any time), Abdul's life in the paint is terrible; more so on the likes of Ferrer and Mariano. The key here is to start making threes to open up the lane, but UST had a poor shooting night themselves, as exemplified by Bautista's missed trey at the dying seconds to salvage a miracle.

Speaking of shooting, UST's pointguard rotation, while serviceable, has its drawbacks. Jamil Sheriff has emerged to be the #1 PG on the depth chart, and is very able to orchestrate whatever offense UST has. However, Sheriff has no outside shot; the #2 PG, Clark Bautista does have outside shooting, but isn't good enough as Sheriff in setting up his teammates. In other words, this is the problem UST had in 2006: should I play Japs Cuan, who has absolutely no shooting at all but is an able orchestrator, or June Cortez who has some shooting but is error-prone?

Game 3's result hinges on UST's rebounding and foul problem. The latter issue is actually easier to solve. It is on the rebounding battle where the championship is to be won.

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