The Clipboard: Two Teams On Opposite Ends of the Table Collide

Until now, believe it or not, I still cannot believe that the UE Red Warriors are sitting at 0-5. I still can’t believe it that the aggressive, physical defense, players portraying as tough guys on the court who are always ready to fight (no pun intended) is not enough to deliver any win for the Recto boys this season. After five games, questions have been raised already if this skid is due to the players? Or is it because of the coaching staff?

After watching five UE games, I think the reason is quite evident: UE players simply do not have it mentally to stay in the game, regardless for how many minutes. My observation is that one UE mistake creates a domino effect to them and they do not recover from that anymore. It will come to a point where you will get a thought bubble saying to yourself, what the hell was that player thinking on that moment?

During UE’s pre-season games, I did not see this coming that UE will be playing like this on the exact and actual UAAP season. Poor decision-making on both ends of the floor simply ruins what they should do on the court. Add to that, most of the players end up in a scuffle or mini-scuffle (or whatever you want to call it) due to having extra motions in the game. These things do not help the Red Warriors in their cause for Season 79.

Personally, I do not think it will help further that UE will commit those mental boo-boos when they face an in-form De La Salle Green Archers this Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Green Archers always look for those mental mistakes of their opponents and take full advantage of them, not knowing that the deficit is already big and the opponent does not have time to pull a comeback anymore.

Aside from those mental mistakes, another thing noticeable for UE at the moment is that most teams go zone on them. UE just simply could not convert anything from deep at this point of the season. The Red Warriors are just averaging 20.4% from deep. Something is also wrong if the best marksman from deep is your big man. Apparently, Clark Derige leads UE from deep with a 41.7% shooting clip, hitting five triples on just twelve attempts.

Another observation for the Red Warriors this season is that their lack of ceiling is getting exposed. UE is 7th on rebounds and dead last on 2nd chance points at this point of the season. Most of UE’s points only come from points that they pick out of their opponents’ turnovers. UE is 2nd on turnover points per game behind the Green Archers at this point of the season with 22.8 turnover points per game. After five games, I do not think relying on turnover points alone will be enough to generate won ball games for UE.

The lack of ceiling issue will definitely be a headache for the Red Warriors on this big Green Archers front line headed by Big Ben Mbala. All of the Red Warriors’ converted centers will be pushed to the limit and I expect that UE will indeed pack the paint to prevent the Green Archers from getting inside points. It could work but the Green Archers also have marksmen on their roster that can burn the Red Warriors from deep so UE may have to rotate quicker defensively as well if they decide to concentrate on their interior defense for Wednesday’s game.

I also expect the Green Archers to attack UE’s pressure defense as what they have done dictating the tempo of ball games on their five wins. If this happens, this could be a very long ball game for UE as what I have mentioned, UE’s primary source of points come from turnover points and if DLSU will be able to milk points off UE’s full court pressure defense, I do not know where UE will get its points anymore.

I am very happy about Ben being composed so far after five games. We can all see that opposing teams try to reduce Ben’s effectivity by playing physical on him (as opposed to what the “great” coach Nash Racela of FEU is trying to implicate) and Ben has shown that he is cool about it and still produces great numbers on this Green Archers’ winning run this season. Expect a lot of contact from UE this Wednesday and Ben cannot afford to lose his focus because of these physical contacts.

UE has good ball handlers but just as what I have mentioned, their questionable decision-making will help the Green Archers produce a lot of turnovers and pound relentlessly on the Red Warriors. The Red Warriors also have this tendency of creating shots on their own instead of moving the basketball during their half court sets. UE may have been leading the league in assists at 17.4 assists per game but most of them comes when UE gets the ball on the open court and not because they move the ball on a half court set.

UE also lacks that post presence since most, if not all, of their big players playing the 4 and 5 positions play face up and loves to play on the perimeter. It will be easier for the Green Archers to anticipate UE’s offensive flow as the ball movement will always come from the perimeter and inside passes will only come in should there be cutters that will be free underneath the basket. But I do not think UE will be brave enough to challenge Big Ben inside the paint even if there will be a cutter that will be left wide open for a shot.

After seeing UE’s performance in five games, I do not think they pose a threat on snapping the Green Archers’ winning run. UE may cause an upset if they decide to start playing smart basketball and being mentally focused for 40 minutes to withstand DLSU’s mayhem defense. After five teams, all of them fell into the trap of playing out of their system in an attempt to beat the Green Archers. I honestly do not see UE changing teams but the Green Archers should stay sharp and focused to get their 6th straight win on Wednesday.