The View From the Armchair – Game 10 vs UST

The Green Archers bowed to the UST Tigers, 52-60, giving UST its only first win in the UAAP since 2007 and only the second since 1999.

The loss extended the Archers’ second round losing streak to 3, and allowed UST to grab solo 4th spot with a 5-5 record while relegating us to a tie with NU at 4-6. It also put at risk the playoff berth the Archers were chasing.

In a slight continuation of the last Armchair article (vs UE), let me use a few words beginning with D-I-S. Dismayed. Disappointed. And disgusted.

What happened?

In a game which was almost a must-win, the Archers folded early. Why folded? Because it was apparent that they gave up early, allowing UST to grab a 15-point lead in the second quarter behind a dominating performance on the boards. Nowhere was the rebounding strength our team had shown last year and most of the first half of this season.

UST came at us right away with a 2-3 zone. It was an open secret that the zone defense is the Green Archers’ kryptonite, that they go to pieces at the mere whiff of the 2-3. And, yes they sure did, en route to a 21-30 halftime deficit that was never surmounted. It was as if it was the first time that the Archers had seen the 2-3, because they never managed to get going offensively.

Defensively, the Archers were able to pressure the Tigers at times, allowing them to come tantalizingly close down the stretch. Yes, the Archers did come to within 2 in the last quarter, but found a way to lose in the endgame.

What went wrong?

A lot of things. We’ve seen it all before. That’s why it’s a mystery that these issues are still recurring.

The foul shooting – 12/26 for 46%. Biggest offenders were our big men, Norbert who hit only 4 out of 10, and AVO who went 2 for 5. Our bigs are expected to play in the paint, and are sure to get fouled often, so free throw shooting is a critical skill for them. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to deliver this season. Our sharpshooter Sam was only 2 of 4. We missed 14 freebies and only lost by 8. This is now clearly a mental issue, because they supposedly make most of their fts in practice but for some incomprehensible reason can’t sink them in the games.

The defense. Once our biggest weapon, it is now as porous as a sponge. Our perimeter defense can’t guard shooters when it counts, allowing dribble penetrations and passes to open players under the goal, and our interior has big gaping holes that permitted UST to score heavily inside despite our clear height and length advantage. UST got off 75 shots, compared to our 57, and many of these were off offensive rebounds and hustle plays.

Our press has had only 1 look this season. No variations. No surprises anywhere. Predictable. Therefore easy to break. Previous pressure defenses of Coach Franz had so many variants that opponents couldn’t figure out what we were doing, giving us the element of surprise. Today, it surprises us that the press gets us a turnover. Sad.

While we’re on defense, why were we playing the 2-3 zone also? I once posted that we were killed by the zone defense, both the opponents’ and ours. We can’t shoot well enough to break the opponents’ zone. And when we go zone, we lose our ability to box out effectively. UST capitalized on this today whenever we showed the zone defense. Other coaches have figured out how to break our zone, but for some reason we can’t fathom, our coaches can’t seem to crack anyone else’s. At least, that’s what it seems. Or they can’t get our players to execute the zone busters I assume we have.

Our offense. We flirted with another 2-point quarter in the second period, but the team managed to dig their way out of that ignominious feat by scoring 8 points. We scored just 52 points, with only one player in double digits. Three of our guards collectively scored more than half of our points – Marata (11), Revilla (8) and Vosotros (8). Our bigs only scored 14 points among them – AVO (6), Torres (4), Villanueva and Mendoza with 2 each.

Our 3-point shooting again went awry – only 4/21, 19%. Sam only made 1/9, Luigi who is our most accurate long shooter missed all of his 3 attempts, and Simon made only ¼. It’s still a mystery why we can’t set up our shooters properly without those overly complicated staggered/double screens that everyone (and their children) already know since they had been in use since Eddie Viaplana used them to shoot out the lights during our first UAAP championships more than 2 decades ago.

Just look at out fiercest rival Ateneo. They do shoot treys, but the way they do it has been reasonably effective – quick ball movement, judiciously thrown screens,  and quick passing with good timing to get the ball to the open shooter with his defender at least two steps away, more than ample time to get a good bead on the basket. And they don’t ask a player to try to shoot his way out of a slump like Sam tried to do under instructions from the coaches (if it weren’t under their orders, he would have been benched or dissuaded from taking that many).

For some reason, our coaches insist on using catch-and-shoot plays, which don’t allow the shooter any time to get his balance and form right. The pros might be able to execute properly since they do that all the time, but to expect collegiate level players to do that with any degree of consistent accuracy is expecting a lot. The current approach hasn’t been working, as seen from our 3point accuracy stats. Shots from beyond the arc are hard enough, but using a catch-and-shoot play is really head-scratching because we do it so often and we miss most of those attempts. So why do it in the first place if it’s so inaccurate?

What went right

Don’t ask. We lost.

Looking forward

What’s there to look forward to? We lost a must-win game that could have given us some separation for the last playoff spot. Now we’re behind a game and tied with NU. Of the 4 remaining games of the Archers, they still have to face the leaders Ateneo, 3rd placer FEU, NU which has been blowing out its opponents lately, and also-ran UP, and it will be exceedingly difficult to win all 4 games to ensure a playoff spot. So far, the only teams that haven’t beaten us this season are UP and NU. And that’s a scary thought.

Unless the team pulls off a miracle recovery (which, judging from their performance so far is extremely unlikely), we might as well resign ourselves to finishing out of the postseason this year. We hope that the team will be competitive in the remaining games in order to have a decent finish.

Maybe premature, but this looks like a sad ending is in sight after such a promising start.

Paradoxical as it sounds, in the real world, the only constant is change. Hopefully this constant will occur after the season.

Maybe the Archers will find the gumption to put up a good fight on Sunday against Ateneo. And maybe the coaches will junk their playbook (which seems to have been an open book for the other coaches) and let the Archers play to their real talents.

Coach, please unleash the players against Ateneo. Let them play. At least, you might catch Norman Black by surprise. Because so far, he’s read you cover to cover. Just like all the other coaches.

And some comments from our friend Proud Archer:

It’s hard to search for the positives in our team right now, not just in the just concluded game.  But there were some.  First, There was defensive intensity for most of the game.  UST only scored 60 points didn’t they.  And the separation only came after the two three point shots of Jeric Teng to seal the win. 

I finally saw Van Opstal block a shot with authority.  You can see that he really IS a diamond in the rough.  We just need to polish the kid.  He still gets useless fouls off head fakes by the offensive man.  He just has to “stay home”, wait for the player to commit to the shot, and go up a little bit after the other player does.  Van Opstal will be a key player for us in the future.  If we can hone his skills. 

Good to see Papot playing strong again.  We need to play him a LOT MORE.  He has the strength to push people around, INCLUDING the likes of Karim Abdul.  He can repeatedly outpost Karim.  Bad we didn’t see Gotladera even for a brief moment on the court, just to try out the legs of the big man.  What was there to lose anyway, specially in the 2nd quarter where we again “disappeared” with 6 points. 

We did not attack Jeric Teng’s defense when he came back with 4 fouls.  This SHOULD have been a strategy we shold have employed.  Instead, Jeric finished the game with a flourish with those two dagger threes. 

The Archers employed the defense UE employed on them.  The box and one.  UE, however, was more successful.  Why you may ask?  It’s the same defense.  Well, one ingredient that was lacking in our players was the ATTITUDE.  The HEART.  The PRIDE.  UE WANTED that ball to be turned over.  We just went through the technical features of the defense.  If I’m not mistaken also, we lost big in rebounding (61-39 I think), despite having some “trees” in our line-up.  Afuang is a lot shorter than most of them.  You hear it over and over and over again.  We lost our ARHCERPRIDE. 

This was NOT HELPED AT ALL by the release of a news that some members of the coaching staff will transfer to a pro club, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ON-GOING SEASON, where we STILL have a chance.  This tantamounts to an announcement of “ABANDON SHIP” and “We will leave you guys to run an ORPHANAGE”, after the season.  What do you think happens to the morale of an organization after hearing news like this, coupled with the criticisms they already hear from the community?  To them who announced this news, I say “Good luck to you then, in your future endeavors”. 

Like what I posted in Archepride, I’ve been watching UAAP basketball for 25 years now.  Heck a QUARTER OF A CENTURY”. I can TAKE Losses as much as I can relish wins.  It’s not the result that entertains me (basketball is still first and foremeost, just an entertainement.  Remember that please.), what entertains me more is the struggle, the excitement, the COMPETITION.  Even if we fall short, It DOESN’t matter to me. 

Sadly, we no longer COMPETE.  We COWER.  We shrug our shoulders.  We just QUIT.   This is a SAD state.

Box scores:

UST 60 – Teng 14, Camus 10, Afuang 10, Abdul 9, Fortuna 8, Ferrer 6, Lo 2, Ungria 1

La Salle 52 – Marata 11, Revilla 8, Vosotros 8, Van Opstal 6, Tampus 6, Torres 4, Atkins 3, Dela Paz 2, Villanueva 2, Mendoza 2

Quarterscores: 15-13; 30-21; 44-38; 60-52