The View From the Armchair – Game 13 vs NU

Roll over. Play dead. Sound familiar? Sure. They’re dog tricks. Today, we were playing the Bulldogs of NU. And with NU’s on-and-off (mostly off) performance this season, we were kinda hoping we’d see those tricks on the court, to be exhibited by NU after we beat them. Well, we did see a team roll over and play dead. But not the ‘Dogs. Unexpectedly, it was our team that did those tricks. And very little else. A big egg from the field in the final 7 minutes of the game spelled disaster for the Archers, and wrote finis to their faint playoff aspirations.

So the season ended prematurely for us with still a game to go. Not with a bang as many of us had hoped, but with a whimper, the Archers falling apart in crunch time to get blown out by NU, 40-56 after entering the final minutes with the lead. The loss gave UST free passage into the playoffs regardless of the outcome of their last 2 games. In a dramatic fall from their traditional competitiveness, the Archers failed to get past the eliminations for the second time in 3 years.

It was another exercise in offensive futility, leading at the end of 3 quarters, 35-32 only to score a measly 5 points in the final 10 minutes against the weak defending Bulldogs while allowing them to explode with 24. How many single digit quarters have the Archers had this year? We managed to do it in both our games against NU, the first being a 2-point quarter in the first round. Today we had two of those, so Coach Eric must really have figured out our system for his team to do it repeatedly to us. Or maybe our coaches haven’t figured out the puzzle yet after 13 games. And with only 1 game left in our season, it’s highly unlikely that they will get it right. That is, if they even know what’s wrong in the first place.

Is it a question of competence? Or ability to inspire and motivate our players? Why haven’t they managed to bring out the best in our players? Or conversely, why have they repeatedly managed to bring out the worst performance from this team this season? At this point, it doesn’t matter anymore. The sad reality is that the team’s leadership failed to deliver the expected results this year, despite an extensive and expensive training program that included foreign trips.

The loss brings the team to 5-8, with only one team failing to beat us – UP. At least we swept one school this year.

What went wrong?

Well, the 40 points says it all. Without even having to look at the stats, it’s obvious that we again 1) missed a lot of shots, 2) had a lot of turnovers, 3) failed to establish any defensive consistency, particularly in the last quarter, 4) took a heck of a lot of outside shots, 5)  allowed NU to get the better of us in the hustle plays throughout the game.

Again, predictability was one of the reasons for our downfall. NU came prepared for our game, and I’d dare say, were even ready if our coaches tossed the kitchen sink into our rotation. They readily went zone, as have most of our opponents this year, and dared us to beat them from the perimeter. Of course, we obliged by failing to effectively set up our shooters, as well as forcing the issue with ill-advised drives.

For example, we had a total of 65 attempts from the field, 19 more than NU had. We sank only 16, less than 25% of our total attempts. We took 20 tries from beyond the arc, making only 2 – 10%. Half of those attempts came in the final quarter, and probably hastened our downfall because we missed all 10, effectively gifting NU with defensive stops which they parlayed into 24 points in the last quarter. Our 2 treys were made in the first half. The over reliance on the outside shot was reflected in the low number of free throws awarded to the team – only 9.

We did have a height advantage, and NU was ready for any attempt to establish a post presence. Whenever either of our centers AVO and Norbert attempted to jockey for position to receive a lob pass, a second NU defender was always alert, and would swoop in as soon as our passer released the lob pass. The result? Turnovers galore whenever they ran that post play, which we did repeatedly today. That tactic has to be a standard post defense of all the other teams already, because they ALWAYS know when we’re going to do it. Yet we keep trying to pound the ball into the post. Every single game. With the same results. At least, we’re consistent that way.

Our bigs kind of disappeared from the battle of the boards, with only Maui managing to pull down 7. It’s an indication of how poorly our frontline performed when our best rebounders were two of our smallest players – Almond and Luigi with 7 each. Incidentally, the 2 guards together outrebounded our tallest 3 players Norbert, Papot, and AVO, who combined to pull down 11 boards. It was also telling that when NU raised their game and started crashing the boards in the last 10 minutes, they outrebounded us 13-8.

I really wonder why our coaches seem to think that the post play will work, just like their other patented pet plays such as the staggered screen for our shooters like Marata. Even the zone has proven to be a killer to the Archer game – when our opponents show us the zone, and when we try to go zone on them. One zone works – the opponents’. Unfortunately, ours works like a sieve. Our coaches again called up our 2-3 zone in stretches, with predictable results. Quick ball movement and passing found open shooters on the perimeter, overload plays created mismatches like Parks on Almond, all of which allowed NU to score. Whenever we went zone, NU would score. So how come they can do it and we can’t?

Maybe someone leaked our playbook to the other teams at the start of the season, because everyone seems to know what we’re going to do before we do it. Always. The other teams have answers to whatever we try to do.

Unbelievably (or maybe predictably), we scored only 40 points in the entire game, which is our season low (probably our all-time low in the UAAP as well), just a game after the Archers exploded for 50 points in the second half of our previous game against UP. Our coach’s offensive plans worked wonders for our opponents – they made NU look like a genuinely tough defensive squad. Maybe this will work (because nothing has so far) – whatever the coaches have asked the team to do today, please do the reverse in our last game against FEU. Because today’s plays were abysmal. We’ve gotten better in finding ways to lose.

Anything go right?

Almond’s 15 first half points. Great performance. Predictably, he wasn’t given the license to continue to score in the second half, and he had just one measly point after the second, and this also turned out to be our final point. Apparently individual performance must be subordinated to the “system”, whatever it is, because instead of the coach calling plays to try to capitalize on his hot hand,  Almond only managed to take attempts in the second half. It appears again that the 4-point, 5-minute rule was implemented again, because only one player scored more than 4 points – Almond. That says something.

Oh, and Papot’s defense re-emerged with his increased playing time. Many supporters have asked why he was relegated to the bench for so many games this season. It makes a perverse kind of sense that he’s just starting to find his game when the season’s almost over. Or rather, the season’s already over for us, with just the formality of a final game on Sunday.

So what’s next? Or rather, what’s last?

Our last game is against FEU, which has likewise been erratic this season like us. Today, the Tams just rallied from 18 points down to take the lead against UST, but surrendered the initiative late in the game to lose. Just like we did today against NU. But unlike us, they’re in the playoffs, while we’re forced to take a much-needed break (read: eliminated). The best use of the free time brought about by this early exit is probably to evaluate the performance of the coaches and players. Something’s broken somewhere, and it’s obvious that the coaches haven’t fixed whatever needed fixing. This season is beyond repair.

Rebuilding has been a bad word in the past, yet it seems that we’re going through another year of the same. In the past, rebuilding has only involved getting new players to replace the graduating Archers as well as those who chose to move on. But this time, it is hoped that the rebuilding will cover all aspects of the team, not just the players but all the way down to the bench. Because after 2 seasons, it’s now the results which will count, not just the effort.

It will be a long off season, for sure. The saying “wait till next year” is always mouthed by a losing team. Of course, there’s another saying, “there’s nowhere to go but up”. Except if you stay where you are. Let’s not stay where we are. It’s the pits.


NU 56 – Parks 25, Mbe 7, Javillonar 7, Neypes 5, Singh 4, Villamor 2, Labing-isa 2, Celda 2, Alolino 2, Roño 0, Khobuntin 0, Magat 0

DLSU 40 – Vosotros 16, Paredes 4, de la Paz 4, Atkins 4, Torres 3, Marata 3, Revilla 2, Villanueva 2, Mendoza 2, Van Opstal 0, Gotladera 0, Tampus 0

Quarter scoring: 17-15, 26-22, 32-35, 40-36