The View From the Armchair – Game 12: DLSU 62 NU 72

It wasn’t pretty.

The result of our must-win game against NU wasn’t the outcome we wanted, with solo possession of 4th place at stake with only a few games left. The Archers yielded to the hot NU Bulldogs, 62-72 last Sunday at the MOA Arena.

The Archers were in the game only in the first quarter, fighting on equal terms with NU at the end of the first quarter, 15-all. After such a promising start, the second quarter started off on a promising note, as LA entered the game for the first time and scored immediately to give the Archers what would be their last taste of the lead, 17-15. NU’s Villamor retaliated with a trey on the next play, and that was the start of the downward spiral. The Archers gave ground the rest of the quarter, committing 4 errors, missing 11 attempts from the field out of 16, and getting outscored, 11-19. A key stat was the 0/5 performance of Norbert Torres inside, because when he would take the shot and missed, we had no rebounders, and NU would take control of the ball.

Those turnovers in the second quarter cost us dearly – NU converted these into 7 points, which accounted for most of their 10-point lead at the half, 26-36. Another glaring disparity was in the free throws, were we were not awarded any, while NU took 14 and made 12. We were whistled for 11 fouls, while NU had only 3 in the first 20 minutes. Despite being tightly marked, Jeron got away with 8 points to lead our scoring.

The third quarter was more competitive – we yielded the quarter by only a point, 19-20, as our shooting improved, going 8/16 for the quarter. Almond got going, making 8 points, and Jovet worked well in the paint for 4 points. However, our defense failed to hold the NU shooters, as they matched our accuracy with 7/14. We finally got to the line but took only 3 attempts from the stripe. This was a relatively “clean” quarter, with our team not making any turnovers at all. A key stat of the quarter was the rebounds – we collected only 6 to NU’s 12. That inability to control the boards prevented us from mounting any kind of rally.

We finally won a quarter, 17-16 in the 4th. Our effort was led by Jeron and Almond, who scored 9 and 5, while AVO contributed the remaining 3 points. NU played conservatively, not permitting us to mount any runs, and coasted home to the victory and solo possession of 4th place.

Anything we can learn from this loss?

A few things. Again. The game was effectively lost in the second quarter, and that bad stretch allowed NU to gain separation and build their confidence.

The weak points of our inside game showed in this game. We were surprisingly outrebounded, 47-32, continuing a losing pattern against NU, since we also lost the battle of the boards in the first round, 51-61. Clearly NU knows how to get the better of our frontliners on the rebounding front, despite the Archers being the top rebounding team n the league. Collectively, our bigs shot only 9/28 from the field, Norbert contributing most of the misses with his 3/15 shooting clip. AVO made all 3 of his attempts, Jovet went 2/7, and Yutien hit at 1/3. Discounting Norbert’s performance, his fellow frontliners made 6/13, which is probably a competitive number.

The disparity in free throws could be due to a number of factors: 1) we were not as aggressive going to the hoop, 2) we committed several unnecessary fouls with the opponents not in a scoring position, 3) our defense was caught out of position and had to foul to prevent an easy score, 4) our players were unable to adjust to the way the referees were calling the game. The thing is, it’s probably a combination of all of the above. We had 22 fouls called on us against 14 for NU, resulting in a whopping disparity in free throws, 7-30. NU outscored us from the line, 3-24, a 21 point difference right there. There were several non-calls such as the last second push on Thomas, but we can’t pin this one on the refs alone.

The maturity factor probably played into our loss as well. NU responded well to the pressure, perhaps buoyed by the UAAP Board’s decision to nullify FEU’s controversial victory and order a replay. But our players lost it in that fateful second quarter, where they allowed NU easy access to the basket (5/8 in 2point attempts) and 2 all-alone treys. NU got hot, our players momentarily wavered, and that was the game. Oh yeah, NU also made a few lucky shots.

Looking forward

It’s now MUST WIN. Also CAN’T LOSE.

NU is now a game ahead in the loss column, and has an easier path to the playoffs. We play FEU and ADU, and can’t afford to drop any of these 2 games. A loss can torpedo our chances of making it to the final 4.

But if we win both, we have at least a tie for the last playoff berth. NU has 3 games left as a result of the Board’s decision – ADMU, UP, and FEU. As of now, FEU is at 8-3, NU at 7-4, and we’re 7-5.

Assuming we win both (there is no other option if we want to be in control), if NU wins all 3 and we win both, it means FEU loses 2 games and we tie them at 9-5. If NU loses one game, we tie them at 9-5. If NU loses 2 games, we take the 4th slot.

Complicated? Not really. It’s imperative that we win both, then wait for the results of the other games. So it’s no longer JUST WIN, it’s now MUST WIN!