Sigh. Another loss. To a team we were expected to beat. Our 1st loss to UP since I-don’t-remember-when. In the 2nd round, our 3rd. Our 4th consecutive. After the weekend, we are firmly in 5th place. How do you like that? A 1-2-3-4-5 sequence.
Ok, the loss to UP dampened our chances of making the final 4. But we’re not out of it yet. We figure to be in a tussle with UST for the last final 4 slot, but need to stay ahead of our erstwhile conquerors Adamson and UP who are only 1 game behind. Not quite where we thought we’d be.
The loss was particularly painful because it hit right at the heart of the previous Archer strengths – the defense. UP, one of the offensively challenged teams which also was among the leaders in the turnover department, dropped 83 points on the Archers, while beating the Archers on the turnover statistics. And of all things, the prime contributor from the UP Maroons, Mikee Reyes, was in a green-and-white uniform of LSGH last year.
What went right
Again, very little. As in the previous losses, the Archers were outhustled, outshot, outrebounded when it mattered most, and generally outplayed. But the offense of the Archers showed some promise. Peejay showed that his shooting touch is back, again topscoring for the Archers with 18, after coming off a 16-point output against Ateneo. Four other Archers scored in double figures: James (15), Joshua (11), Maui (10), and Bader (10). Two point shooting was good for a change, with the Archers connecting on 50% of their attempts (29/58). Now, if only they took more attempts instead of dribbling around the perimeter . . .
Only Peejay had any success from the 3point area, hitting all 3 of the Archers’ 17 attempts from long distance. Bader played well, playing aggressive defense, getting 2 steals and 2 assists while making 5/7 of his field goal attempts. Jovet was particularly active on the boards, pulling down 10 rebounds, one of the highest numbers of an Archer this season. Oh yeah, Sam finally made his first 2point field goal in the tournament, but unfortunately he missed all his 3point attempts.
What didn’t work
Obviously, the defense. Anytime you allow a team like UP to score 83 points on you, the defense has to be the culprit. In fairness to the Maroons, though, they almost overcame a 31point UST lead in their last game, so they can score in bunches. They obviously brought over that momentum into our game. We continued to be vulnerable to good dribble penetrators from the perimeter. Mikee Reyes had a career game with 25points on 4/7 shooting from the 3point area, 6/11 from closer in, ½ from the free throw line, and dished out 6 assists, and collared 5 rebounds. He repeatedly found himself open for the long shots or blew by his guards. Mark Lopez, an athletic swingman, also punished the defense for 11 points on 5/10 shooting while grabbing 7 offensive rebounds. Woody Co also added to the woes by pumping in 13 points on 2/3 shooting from 3point land.
The interior defense failed to keep the Maroons at bay, and they crashed the boards for 20 offensive rebounds. The telling game statistics were the turnovers: 16 to 22 in UP’s favor. The numbers are usually the other way around, showing which team is able to bother their opponents more. Some of our turnovers were simple errors: Jovet’s costly passing error which Gingerich turned into a 3point play, Hyram’s crunch time dribble off his foot.
UP also out-assisted our team, 16-11. For a guard-oriented team, this is a telling statistic. Our pgs were not getting the job done. Granted, Simon was out due to injury, so primary pg duties fell to Bader and Hyram, with Joel only seeing 4 minutes. Bader played solidly at the point, but was out on 5 fouls by the 8th minute of the 4th quarter. UP also had more steals, 8-5, showing their aggressiveness and desire to win.
Joshua was his usual aggressive self, but misfired badly on his attempts, particularly when he received a pass underneath, but instead of going straight up, he elected to do a power dribble and was promptly blocked by the scrambling UP defense.
What cost the Archers the game was their uncharacteristic uncertainty in the end game. With less than a minute to go in the game and the Archers behind by 3, Hyram wasted too much time dribbling, until he decided to drive when no play materialized. The wasted time was devastating, because the Archers could have had a 2-for-1 possession situation if they had not wasted as much time. The uncertainty in the Archers’ game was shown in the turnover numbers. 8 players had 2 or more turnovers. Not usual for the Green Archers that we’ve known in the past.
The rookie watch
Sam logged the most minutes at 9, but failed to make a major impact as he managed to contribute only 2 points. Yutien played 8 minutes, and showed that he will be a defensive headache for opponents in the future as he blocked 3 UP attempts. Arvie scored on his only fg attempt but played only 3 minutes in the first quarter. Joel was on the floor for only 4 minutes, and Gab and Jed played a minute each.
We play UE, UST, and FEU before closing out against NU. The Archers have to plug the holes in their defensive setup, in particular against good dribbler penetrators. UE and FEU have such players in Lee and Barroca, who can drive and score, or dish to waiting teammates. The Archers have to play to their strengths with confidence. While the effort has been there, there is a noticeable lack of fire in their game, except for Joshua and Maui.
The margin of error is now very slim. With a 4-6 record, the Archers now need to win all 4 remaining games to make it to the final 4. If they lose any, they will have to rely on a combination of wins and losses from the other teams like UST and UE, and even Adamson and UP which are only a game behind. It looks like it will be a mad scramble for the last slot. But that’s what makes the UAAP exciting.
The Archers can still make it. The coaches know what has to be done to tweak the Archers’ game. The players just have to want it badly enough to will it to happen.
KEEP THE FAITH!