If we’re going to fail, we might as well fail early so that we still have time to fix it right? Like most of us supporters that is the most positive way of looking at our situation. We have a very good team but our opponents are just playing better than us. See what I just did there? No blaming. But as a long time green-blooded fan I could not recall the last time the Green Archers fell to 1-3 in its first four games. And this could only mean our situation is dire and we seriously need to get back to our winning ways.
If I have a ready answer to the question above (subject) I would have been coaching a pro team instead of writing this article. What I can do instead is to raise some observations which can be addressed to arrest the losses and get back in the final four race. Or get the coaching staff to think of something else to do to fix this and that works fo me too as long as we win.
The weird part about the FEU loss is that the stat sheet showed we didn’t lose much on key stat lines and yet we still lost by a big margin. In the free-throw battle, we’re just -1 (4/13-FEU vs. 5 /10-DLSU). In the rebounding dept, we lost by six 53-47 with FEU just getting two more offensive rebounds than us. But we are +2 on assists (16-14), +2 on steals (4-2) and we even have 2 fewer turnovers (11-13). Moreover FEU is just +1 on fastbreak points. So why did we still lose big? Here are the 2 glaring areas:
#1 We played too few good quarters and the same goes for all our games so far. We are probably the best 3rd quarter team this season but it’s meaningless if we get outplayed in the other 3. We did not just lose the UE game because of the Suerte end-game dagger. We dug ourselves a hole deep enough in the 1st half to tire ourselves out playing catch-up in the next half. But back in the FEU game, the score by quarters tells you the whole story: 1st quarter -5, 2nd – 7, 3rd-+6, and 4th -5 for a total of – 11. We just have to play more consistently. We don’t have to win each quarter but we can lose small in one quarter and win big on the next. How we can do that can be explained further later
#2 Related to #1 our bench is not as productive as our starters (hence the inconsistent quarters). We were off to a hot start torching FEU with a 14-7 lead but the moment our subs got in off we went on a long drought. From the 3 minute mark of the 1st quarter up to the 1st few minutes of the 2nd we scored only 1 free throw and a solitary 3-point field goal courtesy of a reinserted starter Malonzo.
FEU’s bench outscored us by ten points 22-12 and that essentially covers FEU’s winning margin (11.) This season’s UAAP teams have deeper benches and I don’t only mean the top four teams. Have you seen NU’s bench? It’s pretty deep! Don’t get me wrong our bench is pretty good too but just how much better can they get in the next games may spell the difference moving forward towards getting the wins.
So how do we keep our scoring consistent or at least keep the scoring spread even? Well, so far we have 5 consistent scorers: Balti, Melecio, Caracut, Malonzo, and Serrano. If we can spread the rotation so that at least 2 or 3 of these guys are on the floor at any given time maybe it will help reduce those in-between quarter droughts. But that’s not a sure-fire solution because our scorers go through their dry spells. We can also have our bench players score more of course. But if they can’t, they can at least get tougher on defense to keep the other team’s scorers at bay while our starters rest. Even the most prolific teams go on dry spells but they also keep their opponents from getting points.
#3 Intangibles. I remember one particular play when Melecio eluded his man for a layup drive Tchuente came out of nowhere to block the shot and this led to a fastbreak drive by Cani and missed. Along came Tuffin, who also ran the floor to trail Cani, got the tip-in for a four-point swing. That pretty much tells the story of the game in the hustle department. We just gotta outwork them the next time around.
Again these are just observations. I’m pretty sure the coaching staff alo found other kinks that they need to straighten out will undoubtedly work harder to earn more wins in the next games. With better parity this season, others will get their share of defeats. I am just thankful for not being in the shoes of NU fans who experienced four straight heartbreaks like that. Ouch! Let’s not lose faith in the team and the coaching staff as they need our support more than ever. I have no doubt these setbacks will in no way weaken our resolve to soldier on.