The Green Archers hit a big speed bump in their second game, falling to a bigger and more physical NU team today, 55-59 to even their win-loss record at 1-1. After coming off an impressive win in the opening game against UP, our team showed its relative youth and inexperience against the taller and heftier Bulldogs, showing little of the composure and confidence they exhibited . NU, which led most of the way, except for the closing seconds of the first half, survived the strong finishing kick of the Archers to pull of the win.
Another slow start
In contrast to their first game where they led from the get-go, the Archers started off flat and trailed for almost the entire first half. Although they pressured NU into 7 turnovers in the first quarter, they shot poorly from the field, hitting only 4 field goals out of 17 tries. NU’s resident import Mbe asserted his height right from the start, pouring in 10 points while pulling down 6 rebounds as NU dominated the boards, 17-8 in the first quarter to lead 10-17. The second quarter saw NU score first to threaten to pull away at 10-19, but aggressive defending limited NU to only 3 field goals in the quarter, and accurate shooting (7/13) led by the 10 points of Jovet Mendoza allowed the Archers to take the lead in the final seconds of the first half.
The 3rd quarter saw the La Salle game unravel as the Archers misfired the field, duplicating NU’s 3 field goals for 6 points in the quarter while NU scored 18 on another dominant stretch by Mbe who singlehandedly outscored (8 points to 6) and outrebounded (6 rebounds to 5) the entire La Salle team in the 3rd quarter. Another poor shooting quarter saw the Archers miss 14 out of their 17 fg attempts for a low 18% while committing more turnovers, 5 to NU’s 4 as they trailed NU after 3 quarters, 30-41. NU maintained its largest lead at 32-43 at the start of the 4th before 2 unsportsmanlike fouls on NU gave La Salle some momentum to cut the lead to 38-43. Botched defensive assignments allowed NU to penetrate the defenses and build up the lead to 43-52. Desperate attempts from long range netted the Archers 3 triples, but it was a case of too little, too late as they yielded to NU, 55-59.
What went wrong
The game was a bit of a throwback to last year, as the Archer defense suffered a relapse of its weakness at the perimeter. NU swung the ball around, creating gaps which their penetrators exploited to blow by the first line of defense, draw the secondary for a dish to a waiting Mbe. The scrambling defense also failed to block out the NU bigs, giving them 17 second chances from offensive boards. NU exploited their height and size advantage in outrebounding our team, 36-46.
Our shooting was off, and that’s quite an understatement as the Archers shot poorly from 2 point range in the 1st and 3rd quarters where NU built up their lead. Only in the last quarter did the long shots fall with 3 consecutive triples, but overall they shot only 18% (4/22) from 3point range. Our shooters misfired often, with Marata going scoreless in 6 tries, while Webb was closely marked and limited to 5 points on 2 out of 8 fg attempts while sinking only 1 out of 4 fts. Ferdinand played 25 minutes but made only 1 out of 6 shots on top of only 3 boards. Villanueva, who had a double double (13 points, 13 rebounds) against UP was also off with only 2 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes.
Foul shooting woes reappeared, with our players missing 8 out of 13 attempts. If they had converted half or more of the misses, they might have dragged the ‘Dogs into overtime or even won the game. As it is, NU built up enough of a lead to cushion the Archers’ last ditch rally which ultimately fell short.
The relative immaturity of the team showed, when they got frustrated at their inability to score that resulted in uncharacteristic errors (21) that almost matched NU’s turnovers (25). Perhaps they put too much pressure on themselves but the ‘gigil’ factor resulted in missed shots and faulty play. The team didn’t give up, but it may be that they tried too hard and failed to play the quick, fluid game they showed against UP. The team’s composure could have been affected also by the tough physical play of NU, which saw Atkins leave in the 2nd quarter after taking a shot to his face and Jovet hit his head on the floor in the 3rd before receiving a kick from Ponferrada. The two unsportsmanlike fouls on NU players typified their rough and tough approach to today’s game.
The Bulldogs played a more physical game, banging bodies and succeeding in intimidating our inside players. Only Andrada and Mendoza were able to successfully operate inside but only for short periods. Ferdinand seems to have regressed after a good showing in the pre-season, and Paredes was practically invisible. Our short lineup will definitely have to work smarter and harder if they want to keep their opponents from dominating inside.
We would have been ok if our defense had held consistently, but it didn’t for stretches which allowed the ‘Dogs to score enough to keep us at bay. For now, NU has a streak of sorts against us, the first time they have won consecutive games against La Salle.
What went right
The pressure defense forced some turnovers, and when the NU guards finally brought down the ball, they were met with a man-to-man alignment or a 2-3 zone. This caused some initial NU confusion in the second quarter. However, after the halftime break, the NU guards were able to adjust and create opportunities with quick perimeter passing to open up creases which the dribblers exploited to drive or dish to a waiting teammate. The Archers should have capitalized on the Bulldogs’ poor outside shooting (1/14 from 3point range) to clog the middle and dared NU to hit the long shot, but instead extended their perimeter defenses that gave NU more space for their dribble penetrations.
The Archers never gave up even though they were frustrated, and managed to cut the lead down to what it was at the end. That fighting spirit will help them win games later on, as long as they develop a bit more composure and experience.
The rookie watch
Nico Elorde maximized his 8 minute debut in the senior division, sinking both of his field goal attempts and 2/4 foul shots for 6 points with 1 steal. Luigi dela Paz also tallied 6 points with 2 rebounds and 1 assist, while Vosotros poured in all 5 of his points in the first quarter on top of 3 offensive rebounds and 2 assists. Jarelan Tampus saw action for the first time, played 4 minutes and pulled down 1 rebound. Paredes played 3 minutes and managed to contribute 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Among the second year players, Andrada (18 minutes, 7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal) and Tolentino (19 minutes, 3 points, 1 rebound, 7 assists) played well. Marata was held scoreless but pulled down a rebound, and Banal, who was coming off an injury he suffered in the pre-season, made his first appearance this season, logging 7 minutes and 1 rebound.