Not bad. Not bad at all.
The Archers finally beat a team considered to be playoff material, edging NU 87-86 this weekend after 2 overtimes in a humdinger of a game. And Jeron proved his worth as the most sought-after rookie this year, exploding for 35 points. Let’s not forget that NU won the offseason Fil-Oil tournament at our expense. And NU was on a 2-game winning streak as well, so this was no fluke.
It could have been better
I might sound hard to please, but the team could have avoided a second double overtime experience by winning the game in regulation. Any one of 8 missed fts during regulation could have helped to avoid the extension periods, during which the team managed to make only half of the 6 fts awarded to them. Ok, enough about the fts. I think the team knows the importance.
Oh yeah, 15 turnovers, a bit below the levels of the previous games, but probably still one or two too many because NU made 11 turnover points. Some analysts look at the assist to turnover ratio of guards – well if we look at the numbers of the team for the game, it was 17 assists to 15 turnovers. Should be better.
We’re one of the better rebounding squads in the league, but this game we lost the battle of the boards, 51-61. Bulldog rookie Rosario got away with 13 to go with his 14 points, and Mbe scored 12 and pulled down 12 caroms to lead NU’s assault on the boards, with the Bulldogs attacking the offensive boards to grab 23, and that’s entirely too many.
While Gab is proving to be that one-on-one defender we badly need, last year’s MVP Parks still got away with 35 points, and almost single-handedly kept NU in the game. That shows that we’re still a bit vulnerable to penetration from the perimeter, because NU repeatedly scored on isolation plays. This was reflected in their single digit assist performance – only 9. So we can take away the opponents’ team game, now we need to watch out for the individual performers.
Our bigs got clobbered by their Bulldog counterparts. Norbert managed only 6 points, while AVO tallied 7, their combined production eclipsed by Rosario’s individual scoring. Norbert was a horrendous 2 out of 14 from the field, but his field goals were made during crucial stages of 4th quarter. AVO managed only 4 rebounds as he was consumed by the effort of guarding NU’s imports.
And we lost LA at the end of the first overtime when he re-injured his ankle. Not yet fully recovered from his sprain suffered against Adamson, LA was fielded sparingly, but he suffered a bad fall setting up Yutien for that baseline jumper which unfortunately was just a tad short. LA’s ankle makes him questionable for the next game against UE this weekend.
The new offensive set-up gave supporters some anxious moments. The team’s halfcourt build-up is very deliberate, requiring short passes and continuous motion. It typically takes around 15-19 seconds before a shot is even attempted, making for some concerns that the shot clock might expire. But that careful buildup, done properly, gets the ball in our players’ preferred sweet spots. And they’re getting better at it.
Anything good come out of this game?
The win, much needed to allow the team to catch up with NU after 7 games. In fact, we edged NU for 4th by virtue of the winner-over-the-other rule despite both of the teams having a 4-3 record. This win also gave us a modest 2 game winning streak, our second of the season. And some momentum heading into the 2nd round.
Our defense is stiffening. Without the full court press, it still manages to give the opponents a very difficult time. A famous NBA player once described his team’s defense as 5 players on a string, all connected somehow with a defensive philosophy. Well, our defense is starting to make things really difficult. Except on isolation plays, but we can expect the coaches to already be working on this particular kink.
LA’s injuries gave Thomas a chance for some time at quarterback, 21 minutes, and he parlayed this into a very effective stint with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals while not turning over the ball at all. Good ball distribution and all around court generalship for this young rookie.
Almond chose this game to reappear, scoring 18 points on timely clutch hits, doing most of the damage from beyond the arc on 4 triples out of 10 tries. His shooting, combined with Jeron’s 4 out of 7 from long distance, made it difficult for NU to clog the lane. Almond played the entire second overtime, connecting on a triple and taking care of the ballhandling chores.
Yutien was quietly effective again, sneaking in for his patented undergoal stabs and scoring 8 points while providing ample rebounding support with 8 boards. Jovet scored a couple of baskets and banged bodies under the boards.
And Jeron. What can we say about him – # 5 in the most valuable player race after the first round, co-holder of the season-high, and showing both the desire and the confidence to have the ball in his hands when we need a score.
The win, while paradoxically satisfying and at the same time frustrating, served to showcase the new-found toughness of the team. They didn’t give in like wet tissue paper in crunch time, but instead kept up the pressure and prevailed. They stayed within the system, executed, didn’t rush, and succeeded.
That’s a good sign of the new-found discipline of the team.
Up next is UE, which gifted UP with their maiden victory last Sunday. We narrowly beat them in the first round, but I expect this game to be different. The Archers are playing better, and we should be able to control this game. But UE is still dangerous, and cannot be taken for granted. Let’s not hope for a blowout win. Just win!