Archers, Tigers, Looking for Strong First Round Finish

On Sunday, both DLSU and UST will look to end the first round of eliminations in the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball tournament on a high note.  It is not just a rematch of the classic UAAP Season 76 Finals, this match will also be very crucial standings-wise as both the Archers and the Tigers try to catch up at the top of the leaderboard.  Both DLSU and UST are also aiming to lock that third place in the standings after the game on Sunday.

The Green Archers are on a four-game winning run while UST had a heartbreaker of a defeat in the hands of the Ateneo Blue Eagles last Wednesday.  Jeric Teng and Clark Bautista are not around anymore to lead the charge for the España-based dribblers but for sure, UST is still a dangerous team to deal with.  The emergence of Louie Vigil and Kent Lao have been superb for the Growling Tigers.  The Green Archers cannot simply relax on Sunday like the past two matches against Adamson and UP.

Keys to the Game:
Perimeter Shooting: With a team that is oriented in its inside game, it is just important that the Green Archers will hit their perimeter game to keep defenses honest.  It was a good thing that DLSU was able to hit well from the perimeter in their last two outings and I am hoping that this will continue on Sunday.  For sure, all teams will be ready to pack the paint every time they face the Green Archers and will dare them to shoot from the outside to beat them.  DLSU is currently fifth in perimeter points this season averaging 23.2 points per game.  UST is allowing 18 perimeter points per game, which can be taken advantage of by the Green Archers on Sunday.  For the Growling Tigers, the perimeter game will come from Kevin Ferrer, Aljon Mariano, and Louie Vigil.  Kevin Ferrer will be the toughest threat on the perimeter as he can hit the ball from deep but this season, Aljon Mariano has been UST’s best shooter from the three-point range (from an efficiency standpoint), hitting four threes already this season on only six attempts.  With good spacing provided by Karim Abdul, it allows the Growling Tigers to shoot outside at ease, still not deviating from the Pido Jarencio-era where Jeric Teng’s role was scattered this time around to several players.

Battle in the Paint: The Green Archers are considered as one of the, if not, the tallest teams in the UAAP this season.  DLSU ranks third in the league this season on inside points with 33 points per game, living up to expectations that they must use their height advantage to the fullest.  Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, and Norbert Torres are the go-to guys so far for the Green Archers this season inside the paint and all three are expected to work this Sunday, matching up with Karim Abdul, Aljon Mariano, and Kent Lao on UST’s side.  I always say that Karim Abdul is UST’s primary option this season on offense with Ferrer, Mariano, and Vigil as the supporting cast.  UST is averaging 24.4 points per game inside the paint this season, mostly coming from Karim Abdul.  This is the game where DLSU can use Abu Tratter, Yutien Andrada, and Prince Rivero to rotate and match UST’s front court.  The biggest difference in this battle is the rebounding department where DLSU tops the league at 46.7 rebounds per game while UST is just at seventh with 38.8 rebounds per contest.  I hope this can fuel DLSU’s fastbreak attack where the Green Archers and Growling Tigers are not that separated.  The Green Archers are averaging 7 fastbreak points per game while the Growling Tigers are just a shade above DLSU with 7.4 fastbreak points per game.  DLSU can also maximize this rebounding advantage to 2nd chance points.  The Green Archers top the league in this category with 9.5 second chance points per contest compared to UST’s 6.2 average.

Closing Notes:
Time flies indeed so fast that the first round of eliminations is now coming to a close.  This only shows how short of a season UAAP basketball is.  If the Green Archers end the round with a victory on Sunday, it was actually the exact opposite of what happened last season where everyone got bothered with the Green Archers closing the first round of eliminations with a 3-4 record.  Most have panicked when we went 0-2.  Now, the team has won four straight and it will be a big boost to enter the second round on a positive note.  Every win is important knowing that this season is a six-team legit race for Final Four spots and it will just get tougher come second round.  The best that we can do is to continue supporting the team, whether in winning or in losing.