The one that got away.
That probably best describes yesterday’s nailbiter of a 46-48 loss to FEU in a game the Archers yielded to the more experienced Tamaraws only in the closing seconds. The Archers’ offense sputtered all game long, possibly helped by the absence of two key players, LA Revilla and Luigi dela Paz.
A Tight, Low Scoring Game
Coach Gee Abanilla kicked the game off with a surprise starter in Macmac Tallo in place of LA Revilla. As expected, Jed Manguera also started, with orders to make things difficult for Tamaraw hotshot Garcia. The Archers couldn’t get going early, making only 4/13 attempts from the field and 3/6 from the foul line to trail FEU after 10 minutes, 11-14. The second quarter saw the Archers’ defense stiffen, holding FEU to a single digit quarter while pouring in 15 points to lead 26-23 at the half.
FEU regained the momentum after the game resumed,as we struggled, scoring only 8 points on 4 fgs out of 19 tries. 3 of those baskets came from Almond Vosotros who finally got his shot going after missing most of his shots in the first 2 games. Oda Tampus was the only other Archer who managed to score. The difficulty our team had in getting the ball in the hoop was reflected in the team’s not having any assists in the quarter. In the fourth, the Archers led until the closing seconds, only to allow Tolomia to sink a difficult step back jumper from outside for the final score. We missed our last 2 attempts, Almond just off on a potential game winner from beyond the arc.
This was probably one of the lowest scoring games in recent memory, a game in which the Green Archers made more free throws (16) than field goals (15) en route to a low 27.8% shooting clip.
Apparently, this was the mantra for both teams yesterday. FEU repeatedly blitzed our guards, and in particular Jeron Teng whenever he got the ball on the perimeter, forcing him to pass off to avoid getting double teamed.
Our defense was equally tight. Macmac stuck to Romeo like a leech, staying with the FEU gunner through the screens, and not falling for any fakes and feints used by Romeo to try to shake Tallo. Jed was assigned to shadow Garcia, and successfully limited the former MVP’s touches, harassing his attempts, and forcing him into a bad 2/12 shooting performance. So frustrated was Garcia that he head butted Jed in a particular isolation play that broke Jed’s nose. Jed got the offensive foul but had to leave because of a profusely bleeding nose.
Our interior defense also made things very difficult for any Tamaraw who ventured into the paint with the ball. Norbert and Yutien talled 3 blocks each, frustrating Romeo thrice as he repeatedly tried to penetrate the perimeter defense of Macmac. Our bigs led by Norbert also effectively battled the Tamaraw frontliners, with Norbert hauling down 12 rebounds, as we won the battle of the boards, 49-40. Jovet and Yutien contributed 7 each, while AVO grabbed 6.
Surprisingly, we had no steals, and FEU only had 1. This didn’t mean that there were no turnovers. We had 15 while FEU had only 9. Our 15 turnovers were a bit lower than our previous 2 games, but considering the low scoring, gifted FEU with 6 points. However, we had more success capitalizing on our opponents, with the Archers scoring 10 points off turnovers.
Shoot that Ball (Not)
It seemed that we couldn’t sink the ball even if the basket was the size of the ocean. Not one of our 7 attempts from beyond the arc went in. Only 15 field goals out of a total of 54 attempts. Credit some of that to FEU’s pressure defense, but some of it was simply flubbed shots. Norbert was double teamed whenever he caught the ball in the paint, and his attempts under pressure were often off the mark. Jeron scored 8 points in the first half, but missed all 5 of his attempts after the halftime break.
Our inability to hit the outside shot consistently enabled FEU to pack the lane and crowd any Archer who ventured into the lane with the ball. We did manage to fish fouls from FEU, particularly in the first half where they went into foul trouble early, but misfired terribly in the first 2 quarters, making only half of the 20 attempts awarded to our players. The 10 misses were felt at the end as we lost by a mere 2 points.
Surprisingly, FEU fared even worse from the line, making only 8/18. Maybe the foul shooting malady is contagious after all.
One bright stat was our 11 assists out of 15 made field goals. That’s indicative of the team play that the coaches have drummed into our players while designing our plays to cater to their individual strengths. FEU had 10 assists on 19 fgs, reflecting more individualistic plays that the Tams were forced to employ because of our tight defenses.
Up next are the defending champion Blue Eagles, who dismantled fancied NU in the second game. Ateneo played consistently on both ends, capitalizing on the miscues and misses of the Bulldogs to turn an expected close match into a runaway.
The Archers will need to continue to play aggressive, attacking ball while trying to minimize the errors. It will be difficult to dominate inside, with 7 foot Slaughter manning the paint, but the much-improved Norbert, AVO, Yutien, and Jovet will tag-team the interior defending and try to muscle out the tallest player in the UAAP.
An interesting sidelight will be how the hugely talented Jeron and Kiefer will fare. They play different positions, and will probably not guard each other. They will rely on the roles defined by the coaches within the team games both squads employ, so this is not going to be a “mano-a-mano” duel.
Of concern for the Archers will be how healthy LA and Luigi are by Saturday. If they are both fit, our offense will probably be a bit smoother since we will have some outside weapons to call on.
This game is probably the most awaited game in the first round. Expect it to be a humdinger of a game.