UAAP Finals Game 3: All On The Line

The stage is set for one last epic basketball match between two great teams tomorrow. After all the Xs and Os have been mapped out for four meetings this season, it will boil all down to who wants it more. Throw the stats away and numbers will definitely not matter this time around as the DLSU Green Archers and the UST Growling Tigers settle it one last time in their Game 3 encounter tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena for the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball title.

The series started with UST escaping La Salle with a skinny 73-72 win after Almond Vosotros missing a wide open trey and Karim Abdul’s blocking LA Revilla’s potential game-winning lay up. In that opening game, Kevin Ferrer was just waxing hot and burned La Salle with 20 points and 6 rebounds while Abdul added 19 points and 12 boards playing an all-around game against La Salle’s twin towers Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres.

Playing with more aggression and fluidity in Game Two, La Salle eventually grabbed the win by dominating the paint this time around burning the Growling Tigers en route to a comfortable and dominating 77-70 win. Jeron Teng, Norbert Torres, and Arnold Van Opstal all combined for 48 of the Green Archers’ 77 points, which also included a huge 42-26 disparity in inside points. That showed that Game One was just testing the waters and getting the Archers’ feet wet in a treacherous terrain called the finals.

With that being said, here are some key factors for La Salle in tomorrow’s winner-take-all game.

Dictating the Tempo

The two teams have very contrasting styles of play. La Salle plays more systematic compared to UST. UST thrives in the open court, whether it is finishing the break or pulling up from the perimeter, UST just loves to play free flowing offense. In the finals series so far, the Archers had success in banging bodies down low and tiring UST’s hybrid wings namely Ferrer and Mariano thanks to the superb play of its frontcourt machines in Arnold van Opstal, Norbert Torres, Jason Perkins and Jeron Teng.

When the pace runs in La Salle’s favor, it makes the Growling Tigers take gambles on its defensive schemes especially on their switches on pick and rolls and to the extent of playing 2-3 zone since anyone can score in the La Salle side. As evidenced by the balanced scoring outputs by the team in the first two games, La Salle can effectively neutralize UST’s spitfire offense with effective ball movement in their fluid halfcourt sets as compared to UST that has Jeric Teng and Karim Abdul as their consistent scorers.

Control the Boards

Another department that the Archers were able to capitalize was on the rebounding department basically because of its height advantage compared to the Tigers. It is without a doubt that rebounding is one of the underestimated and often overlooked field in the game. But, for the Green Archers, they make it a point to chase every loose ball and box out for every potential rebound. This is evident that La Salle’s guard corps of LA, Almond, and Thomas are all capable of getting those caroms to run the break or provide 2nd chance opportunities for the Green Archers.

In Game Two, La Salle dumped UST in the rebounding department with a lopsided 57-39 advantage. The team also had 27 offensive board compared to UST’s 10. The Green Archers also had a big 18-6 point advantage in 2nd chance points. This can be attributed to Abdul and Pe going into foul trouble early for UST and the Growling Tigers just do not have the manpower to bang bodies with La Salle’s bigs. Mariano was even sent to play center in that game to man the paint. AVO finished the game with 14 rebounds. Norbert had 7 offensive rebounds in the game.

Create Mismatches

Yet another contrasting aspect between the two teams is their collection of players. La Salle likes to make teams play for its size which is complemented by a streaky lineup of guards and agile swingmen. While UST is designed for running and a perimeter-oriented offense as its lineup is composed of versatile swingmen who could space the floor with ease and slash towards the basket. Even Karim Abdul, who is UST’s best post player can also attack from the outside going into the paint.

In the first two games, the Archers always pose mismatch problems with their frontcourt as the likes of Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer don’t do well when they are posted up by the La Salle big men. With that in mind, La Salle must bang with authority in the paint when they are matched up with UST’s lanky forwards. Another aspect that should be seen is the passing game of La Salle’s big men once UST’s help defense comes from the weak side. Perkins had 14 assists in two games since he is doing a good job finding the open man once UST’s help defense at the post collapses.

But the glaring mismatch for La Salle in the series is Almond Vosotros guarding Jeric Teng since the latter has a good post up game coupled with his knack for hitting tough shots. So far, La Salle has not gone on the option of constantly double teaming Jeric once he gets in a good post position on the low block. The Green Archers have been taking gambles on letting Jeric go one on one at times just to take away the scoring comfort and groove of his teammates. Almond is hanging tough also in there as he is forcing key turnovers and tough shots from Jeric. Expect La Salle also to have crisper defensive rotations coming into tomorrow’s game.

Dominate the Paint

Thanks to the newfound confidence between the twin towers of AVO and Norbert Torres, along with Hefty Lefty Jason Perkins, La Salle can effectively neutralize Abdul’s presence in the paint since UST has a razor thin frontcourt rotation. UST has athletic, versatile wingmen that can outjump anyone for rebounds but position-wise, they would have a hard time bodying up against La Salle’s frontcourt.

When the two centers play together, it will always be a tough puzzle for any team to solve since Van Opstal and Torres can exchange roles in the front court. This also makes UST adjust the playing times of their key frontcourt players since it gets tiresome to bang bodies with the types of Arnold, Norbert, Jason, and Jeron for a long stretch in the game. It will be interesting to see if Coach Pido will field in Kent Lao and Robert Hainga in tomorrow’s game just to make Abdul fresh in the crucial stretches of the game.

All on the Line

With all things being said, it will always be about who wants to win it more. No more and no less. Everyone must play like there is no tomorrow. Both teams will be all out for the name of greatness and immortality not just for the sport of basketball but for their own respective schools giving pride to their Alma Mater. Let’s support and cheer out our gladiators in the most important game of their lives tomorrow.

Animo La Salle!