On Saturday, the De La Salle Green Archers will look to stay close to within one game of getting the sweep of the elimination round in the on-going UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament. Its arch-rivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, on the other hand, will not be only out to try and deal the Green Archers its first setback but they will also look to get some separation from the Adamson Soaring Falcons on their tight race for a Final Four seat.
For the Green Archers, everything is mental at this point and I personally believe that the only opponent that can beat them is themselves. If they start to lose focus, that is where their opponents can start pounding on them and probably take a game away from them as well. Talent-wise and team chemistry-wise, I do not see any problems on this team at this point. Players do not matter about how they will perform depending on their playing team. As soon as Coach Aldin Ayo fields in a player, that player performs to the highest of his ability and effort on the court.
I still expect the Green Archers to score as many points as they can from their defensive effort but I would like to see the Green Archers start to dominate as well on the offensive end. When I say dominate, it is to lessen their turnovers and get points more from their offensive sets. The Green Archers are still number 1 in the league on turnovers committed with 25.1 turnovers per game. If the Green Archers can lower this down and get points instead of giving the basketball to their opponent, the Green Archers will be an even more a fearsome team.
I know they are a strong team already at this point but I want to dominate more and strike fear to their opponents knowing that no matter how the opposing team’s coaching staff review the game tapes of the Green Archers, they will have a difficult time seeing how to beat this team. And at this point, turnovers per game is one aspect where opposing teams can take advantage of the Green Archers. Those live ball turnovers also of the Green Archers allow its opponents to get 13.7 fast break points per game.
I think Ateneo will focus going into this game how to limit their turnovers and will try to execute more so that they can get something out of their half court sets. As mentioned earlier, La Salle’s points are mostly coming from making plays off their defensive effort so if the Blue Eagles can get baskets out of their offensive sets then that may help their cause on keeping close with the Green Archers in this game. I may be mentioning these things but it will be easier said than done though in the actual game on Saturday.
During the first round encounter, Ateneo was able to score against the Green Archers from the perimeter and personally, that kept them in the game. I think the Green Archers will continue to give them those shots and challenge them from time to time rather than giving Ateneo baskets from higher-percentage areas on the floor. I will also see Ateneo go and try for drop passes once they attack the paint to see if they can get the Green Archers’ bigs in foul trouble or if they get baskets from close range.
But still, the biggest question is, can Ateneo stop Ben Mbala’s contribution on both ends of the floor? If the answer is no, then it will still be difficult for Ateneo to snatch a win in this game. Take note, even if Ben gets rested on the bench, La Salle has proven this season to pad and erect leads to pull away from its opponents so putting Mbala in a precarious situation is one thing but also competing and staying close or even getting the lead from the Green Archers with Mbala on the bench is a totally different animal to deal with throughout the course of the game.
Since losing to UP at the start of the 2nd round of eliminations, Ateneo has racked up three straight wins so their confidence is quite high going into Saturday’s game. Personally, it will be really good to bring them back to the ground on Saturday by making them work for every possession due to La Salle’s non-stop pressure defense. I also think Ateneo at some point in the game will get tired and lose a little bit of that mental focus which will serve as the perfect window for the Green Archers to capitalize and take its 13th straight win of the season. But more than getting that 13th straight win, it will be a feel good game simply because I want to see the Green Archers get the better end of the deal against your mortal enemy.