Greenstincts: Caveats despite a morale-boosting La Salle win

Well, this should silence the DLSU Green Archers’ critics, even for just one day. The 88-71 win over an Adamson Falcons team was as expected as it was a much needed confidence and morale booster to the team and the Green and White community. Trying not to sound overconfident but against a team with a lot of rookies and not a lot of household names, the only mystery in this matchup against Adamson would be the final winning margin.

After barely beating defending champions NU and back-to-back loses to UP and FEU, this batch of Green Archers finally displayed some form of dominance against a UAAP opponent. A change in tactics and strategy actually began with the tinkering of the starting five: inserting Josh Torralba over Andrei Caracut and benching the more athletic Abu Tratter for rookie Larry Muyang.

La Salle still has a tendency to put the foot off the gas pedal when it needs to put the game well out of reach.

In a bit of better-late-than-never move, replacing Caracut with Torralba actually made the starting line-up more balance while giving the La Salle bench added firepower with Andrei’s shooting. Against UP and FEU, taller wing players feasted on Caracut on the post and almost scored at will. Aside from being the taller and heftier player, Torralba was also able to make a difference in the first canto by hitting back-to-back treys for a 12-4 lead.

Muyang, with a game that is based more on the ground and footwork, has more polished moves in the paint and better hand-eye coordination that the more athletic but erratic Tratter. For the second game in a row, Larry got more playing time than Abu (20-11) and was able to prove that he deserved the minutes by finishing with six points, 12 rebounds and two assists. A plus/minus of +23 against Tratter’s -10 is also a key indicator and reminder to the coaching staff to put the Pampanga native in the game more.

For the first twenty minutes of the game, everything seemed to go into the Green Archers’ favor. The 18-5 edge in fast break points meant easy baskets for the team while the 14 assist were indications of better ball movement and unselfishness with the ball. As with the case of the 4th quarter against NU (16-23), 2nd period versus UP (14-25) and 3rd against FEU (11-32), La Salle still has a tendency to put the foot off the gas pedal when it needs to put the game well out of reach.

Being outscored 16-23 in the third was a direct result of AdU defending better (forcing 13 second half turnovers of DLSU’s total of 22) and the Archers going back to their isolation, one-on-one tendencies (seven 2H assists). I was actually glad to see somebody other than Jeron Teng respond to the challenge of the Falcons’ rally when Thomas Torres scored 13 of his total 16 points after intermission.

The second of the 4th year guard’s three-point conversion actually gave La Salle it’s biggest lead at 56-30 with 7:04 to go in the third while timely free throws and another shot beyond the arc halted AdU’s 16-6 run bridging the 3rd and 4th frames. Torres was also at the center of what was a crazy sequence of events when a wayward throw by the Falcon’s Don Ochea went in Torres’ direction was called for an unsportsmanlike foul, followed by the referee’s calling of a technical on AdU coach Mike Fermin for an “inappropriate gesture”.

Despite the breaks of the game going in their way and better offensive and defensive showings, there are caveats to take back to Taft: learning to trust in each other in turbulent times, the oft-repeated atrocious free throw percentage (23/35, 65.7%) and giving up 23 offensive rebounds and 2-13 disadvantage in second chance points.

The game was also a chance to improve DLSU’s press break as Adamson employed either full or 3/4th court pressure defense during the second half. Instead of breaking the press as a whole team, it was still up to the ball carrier (Jeron or Thomas) to get the ball beyond half court and set the offense in play. This approach will have the improve or change especially in the next game against the UE Red Warriors and their choking Pumaren-press.