Greenstincts: DEFCON ONE

The Lasallian community already have two hands on top of the panic button. It’s bad enough that the defending champion DLSU Green Archers lost to the AdMU Blue Eagles, 97-86, but the 0-2 start for UAAP Season 77 has raised questions rather than showed solid proof about La Salle’s potential to achieve back-to-back titles.

The pragmatic fans and supporters will just shrug off the two-game slide as early growing pains, keeping in mind that after the first round of last season, the team was languishing at the middle of the pack with a 3-4 win-loss record.

 The die-hards, however, are already calling for the heads of everyone responsible for this winless streak.

For the second game in a row, the Archers had a good start, leading 24-17 at the end of the first quarter. Ball movement was fluid for DLSU while the Blue Eagles could not get their rhythm going. Jeron Teng easily sliced through the Ateneo perimeter defence, dropping nifty assists to Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada or finishing drives for himself.

The first half was a battle between the La Salle bigs against the Ateneo guards. The Taft-based squad scored 18 points in the paint against the 23 perimeter points from Ateneo, half of them from the hot-shooting Von Pessumal (12 points of total 21).

In offence and defence, our corp of guards seem to be the weak link this early in the season. After FEU guard Mike Tolomia torched La Salle last game with 23 points, it was the turn of King Eagle Kiefer Ravena to break the hearts of the Lasallian gallery with four three-pointers in a span of six minutes in the fourth.

For the most part of the last quarter, coach Juno Sauler was clearly outcoached by his counterpart, Bo Perasol. With the score tied 61-all early in the fourth and Thomas Torres out with a bum ankle, Sauler used a big line-up and zone defence against the Ateneo five. The La Salle zone, made up of big but less agile frontmen, was slow to react to their quicker counterparts. Failing to make adjustments in defending the Ateneo’s hot shooting clearly cost us the game.

Out of the 36 total points that La Salle gave up in the last canto, 15 came from the rainbow area, 13 from the charity stripe with only eight from two-point areas.

The rebounding numbers are unacceptable. I am sure that I was not the only one yelling: “Rebound! Rebound!”

Being the smaller team, Ateneo naturally attempted more outside shots which lead to long rebounds. The La Salle front court players grabbed 37 of the total 50 rebounds but Ateneo’s wing players had almost half of the team’s rebounds (24 rebounds, 51 total). Whoever wins the rebound battle, wins the game.

Coach Juno’s call to intentionally foul former Green Archer Alfonso Gotladera was mildly effective with the later converting only half of his eight free-throw attempts. Despite the hack-a-player strategy, La Salle could only trim the lead to nine points to give back to Ateneo the all-time UAAP head-to-head matchup, 37-36.

Who deserves a 4.0?
Hefty Lefty, Jason Perkins was a match-up problem for Ateneo. Scoring from the inside, creating off the dribble, cutting towards to basket and making two triples, the 2013 Mythical Five member showed his whole arsenal finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists with only one turnover.

I’ll give 3.0 to team captain Jeron Teng. Playing an all-around game 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, including some nifty passes for easy inside baskets to Norbert and Jason. He did miss a lot of left-handed layups and finished 6/20 overall. There were also less isolation plays by Jeron, trusting his teammates more compared to the loss against FEU.

Too early of a call time? I’ll give a grade of 1.0 to..
Veterans Norbert, Van Opstal and Vosotros seemed out of their element. Maybe it was the noon time start or they were too calm or eager to beat their Katipunan counterparts. It took two free throws in the 3rd before Van Opstal scored his first two points while Almond scored 18 points but from 19 field goal attempts.

Ateneo did its homework against Vosotros, not allowing the fifth-year guard to get to his sweet spots. Height-wise the tandem of Almond-Thomas Torres match-up well against starters Keifer and Nico Elorde. Almond usually posts-up against opposing guards but could not do so against Ateneo’s zone.

Norbert, neither consistently effective with his back to the basket or shooting from mid-range, was also a defensive liability against Ateneo bigs, Gotladera (17 points, 8 rebounds) and rookie Arvin Tolentino (14 and 10).

0.0 for the rest of the La Salle lineup
Save for a few moments in the game, the team was visibly the less intense than their Katipunan counterparts. When Ateneo shifted to fifth gear courtesy of the 4th quarter three-point conversions by Ravena, the Green Archers were stuck in second gear.

The heralded crops of La Salle rookies have so far contributed in limited minutes with Prince Rivero scoring four and Julian Sargent two. It is time for coach Juno to involve them in the rotation more, give these greenhorns some confidence and provide that much need spark and surprise against future opponents.

If there’s any consolation, DLSU has already faced two of the toughest teams in the eight-team men’s basketball tournament. Our current record could easily be 2-0 if not for a few mental lapses on defence.

Every team is out to get the Green Archers, the target on La Salle’s back is that big.

The Archers have to regroup quickly as they face unbeaten teams National U on Wednesday and UE next Sunday to complete one hell of a week for the defending champs.

Late news of Thomas Torres’fractured ankle and consequent absence for the season makes matters worse for the La Salle coaching staff. Backup point guard Kib Montalbo slides to the starting point guard slot and big hopes on rookie Terence Mustre to contribute as the backup role right away.

The faith of the Lasallian community is shaky but still will not waver. Another loss, however, and you can’t blame us if we hit that red button.