For the first quarter and a half, I really though that the Green Archers were playing the best basketball of this Season 78. Two quick three-point baskets by Josh Torralba quickly gave DLSU the momentum, confidence and an early 6-2 lead while the La Salle defense was locked in on UST’s main gunners, Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquioag.
Riding hight on a modest two-game winning streak, one can see that the Archers were passing the ball around, finding the open man and taking and making their shots. Despite missing 7/11 free throws by mid-second quarter, DLSU was comfortably ahead by 14, 33-19 after a tough, inside basket by rookie Larry Muyang.
Whether the Growling Tigers were just playing possum or simply went to a higher gear, their 12-0 run and utilization of a 2-2-1 full court press to end the half slowly turned the game around in UST’s favor; rattling La Salle’s teamwork and confidence despite DLSU still leading at 33-31.
Save for a few bright spots on offense, the third period was once again the Archer’s waterloo, yielding a 13-29 quarter courtesy of seven three-point bombs from UST’s perimeter players. Aside from the DLSU defense caught napping, making matters worse was the team going back to its undisciplined, iso-ball tendencies leading to forced shots and ugly misses.
Since the 3:41 of the second quarter where La Salle posted its biggest lead, 33-19, UST outscored the Archers 28-58 the rest of the way; a 30 point swing that not only gave the Tigers the UAAP tournament lead at 5-1 but also left DLSU’s players and coaching staff wondering what the heck happened.
Archers’ arrows missing their mark
After shooting a respectable 40% (13/32) in the first half, the Green Archers went cold in the next twenty minutes, converting only eight field goals (8/31) while committing twice the number of turnovers (10) as they had in the opening two quarters. To compound DLSU’s situation was its poor showing at the free throw line; missing half of their charities (9/18) much to the chagrin of assistant coach Allan Caidic.
La Salle’s misses from the field can be attributed to a good UST defense but the Archers have only themselves to blame for clanking 16 of 29 free throws. The most fundamental yet critical shot in basketball requires mental toughness and focus as well as good technique and muscle memory. Save for Andrei Caracut going 2/2, not one Green and White player hit above 60% as DLSU was dragged down by Torralba and Jason Perkins combining to shoot 2/10.
I’m already tempted to say that instead of doing layup lines and perimeter shooting before the start of the game, the Green Archers should focus solely on the charity stripe; make game-like situation shots instead of dunk attempts that the players will never have a chance to do when tipoff comes.
Lack of in-game adjustments
It’s a rather unfortunate fact that “players win games while everyone blames the loss on the coach” but of the three losses by DLSU this season, this one against UST is squarely on the shoulders of the La Salle bench.
Tigers coach Bong dela Cruz made timely adjustments (2-2-1 press) and got solid contributions from his bench. Players like Kyle Suarez and Louie Vigil, overshadowed by their more star-studded players, combined for 19 points spiked by 5/8 three-point shooting.
Coach Juno Sauler and his staff however, can’t seem to get the players to play a solid 40-minute game. Abu Tratter never saw playing time again after bungling a fast break pass while Muyang only got spot minutes in the second half after DLSU decided that “small-ball” was the best line-up to use.
How much more can the Lasallian community endure an up-and-down type of a season? DLSU is a proud institution for sure, with one of the most loyal and fiercest students and alumni in the eight-school league. Every bricked three-pointer, missed field goal attempt, turned over possession and carelessly shot free throw brings added misery and decreases the confidence that the community has on the team.
It’s hard to be positive when there’s too much pessimism on and off the court. Haters “gonna” hate and bashers “gonna” bash but there’s no use regretting and sour grape about the team’s past losses. Instead of calling for heads to roll and finger-pointing, the focus and energy of the team and Green and White community should only be on the next game ahead. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to stay positive and keep the faith.
Animo La Salle!