The View From the Armchair – Game 13: DLSU 63 FEU 56

Last Sunday’s 63-56 win over FEU was a victory in more ways than one. We kept pace with NU in the race for the final 4, and we bested FEU for the first time in a couple of years. And finally, the Archers proved that they could bounce back from losses to Ateneo and NU with a polished performance over the tough Tamaraws.

Of course, FEU played without Arvie Bringas and Belo, who were serving suspensions, but the Tamaraws still boasted of the most formidable scoring backcourt in Romeo and Garcia, who collaborated for 36 out of their 56 points. Tolomia, who scored the marginal basket in our first round encounter, returned from injury but was clearly still not in form and could only score 2 points. The Tamaraws were not lacking in height, with Hargrove, Sentcheu, Pogoy, Cruz, and Escoto forming a tall frontline that could match our bigs.

The game started out competitively, with La Salle and FEU trading baskets en route to a low scoring quarter which the Tamaraws took, 11-12. Romeo started off hot, sinking 6 points while Garcia netted 4, while Almond continued his hot shooting, making 5 points from the outside. The Tamaraws threatened to pull away at 14-20 and again at 18-24 behind the 7 points of Romeo. But the Archers held FEU scoreless for the last 4:48 of the first half to take the lead, 26-24, with Almond scoring a couple of baskets, Norbert with one, and 2 free throws from Jeron. At the end of the half, an FEU benchwarmer tossed the ball at Jed’s head as the half came to a close, resulting in a technical and giving La Salle 2 free throws to begin the 3rd quarter, which Almond converted, 28-24.

Coming out of the break, the Archers were able to resolutely clamp down on defense, holding FEU down to just 9 points in the 3rd quarter as they took control of the game after the halftime break. In fact, FEU was forced into a dubious triple-9 performance in that quarter, scoring 9 points, making 9 turnovers, and committing 9 fouls. The Archer defense was so suffocating that FEU only managed 8 attempts, making only 2 as the Archers connected for 16 points to lead by 9, 42-33. LA and Norbert connected to start the final quarter as La Salle took the biggest lead of the game, 46-33. FEU threatened at 53-49 as Romeo, Escoto, and Garcia scored 2 baskets each, but Almond personally put out the fire with a clutch trey and 2 free throws, while Jeron canned a charity to restore a 10-point lead at 59-49. A couple of desperation baskets brought the lead down to 6, 59-53, before Norbert and Yutien sandwiched a triple by Romeo to end the game. FEU’s desperate attempts to overhaul the lead saw them jack up 23 attempts from the field, where they made 4 treys out of their 9 field goals. But they only managed to fish for 2 foul shots. The FEU pressure resulted in our team committing 6 turnovers in the 4th, but our accuracy from the field (6/13) and clutch (6/8) free throw shooting kept the Tamaraws at bay.

Good win?

Definitely. It was a must-win situation and our players responded positively.

The game was won on the defensive end, Romeo and Garcia getting their points but limiting everyone else. And unlike the game against NU, we won the battle of the boards and dominated the paint, 49-40. While we committed 18 turnovers which FEU converted into 16 points, we forced FEU to give up the ball 16 times of which we turned into 13 points.

We were unable to totally slow down FEU’s fastbreaking game as they managed 15 points on the break, but those were their only really uncontested shots during the game. The Archer defense limited FEU to 32.3% shooting from the field, down from their season average of 39%.

On offense, our team was able to distribute the scoring load. Almond was again difficult to stop from outside, hitting 3/7 from beyond the arc, 3/4 from closer in, and 6/6 on free throws. Clutch throughout the game. Jeron was very tightly marked and struggled to a 2/11 performance from the field, but his aggression resulted in 10 tries from the foul line, of which he made 6. LA was quietly effective in limited minutes, making 8 points, and Yutien again showed how slippery he is from under the basket with 7 points. Norbert was also woeful from the field, his 2/11 clip matching Jerons, but a couple of critical end game free throws and 11 rebounds equalized his balance sheet. Special mention must be made of Thomas, he who fished 3 offensive fouls from FEU in that crucial 3rd quarter run when we wrested control of the game for good. AVO was active inside, and gave his counterparts headaches as he managed to haul down 3 offensive rebounds and scored on a couple of baskets which were blocked but called goal tending.

Rough spots?

Still a few. The nagging problem with turnovers still persists. We average 16 a game, and we can’t afford to give away the 15 points on average that our opponents score off our errors. BTW, that’s tops (or the bottom) in the league – our opponents are able to capitalize on our turnovers, while we only manage 10.6 points per game on our opponents’ turnovers. BTW, that’s also tops (or the bottom) among all the teams. We are also kinda poor in forcing opponents’ turnovers – only 13.4 a game (dead last!), compared to our 16.0 turnovers. We’re losing the turnover battle.

Our free throw performance over 13 games could still stand improvement. We made only 179/298 for 60.1%, only good for 6th place. That’s 119 points we gave away (9.15/game). Let’s have a closer look at the numbers. We scored an average of 66.6 points a game (866 points in total), while we allowed 845 total points for an average of 65 per game. Only a 1.6 average point differential. Just think – if we made a few more free throws, … <sigh> At least the team’s improving.

Again, on taking care of the ball. We allow the opponents to pick our pockets an average of 4.7 times per game (#5 in the league), but we’re able to return the favor only 4.0 times a game. Clearly thievery is not something preached in La Salle.

Our shot selection also leaves much to be desired, as we get blocked an average of 5.6 times a game (2nd highest!). We block shots 4.2 times a game, on the losing end. And our field goal shooting isn’t that hot either, 36.9% (#6). In comparison, ADMU is at 44.3%. Perimeter points is only 20.2 points a game (last). Clearly we either hit it from beyond the arc, or inside the paint.

What are we doing right?

We really have a good defensive team. Tops in points allowed (65.0), #2 in 3point % (28.3% – 53/187),

The opponents like playing zone against us because of our perimeter shooting which is good for an average of 24.1 points a game (#4). UE likes to bomb away from afar, scoring 28.7 from a distance. We allow the competition to pull down an average of 43.16 boards a game (#6), but we top the rebounding table at 48.21, bench scoring is #2 (26.8/game), points allowed (65.0, tops), total field goal % allowed (34.7%, #1), 2point field goal % allowed (39.1%, #1), 3point field goal% allowed (23.5%, #2), assists allowed (11.2, #1), fastbreak points allowed (8.0, #1), second chance points allowed (8.2, #1), points in the paint allowed (27.5, #1).

Clearly, although we ditched the full court press of past years, our defense has consistently emerged as our key weapon in the success of the team so far. With 8 wins and 5 losses, the Archers have surpassed the performance of our teams for the past 2 years. And to think, this is a re-engineered team operating under a new system which has been in place for less than 12 months. On offense, we are seeing the emergence of multiple threats in Jeron, Almond, LA, Oda, even Thomas and Macmac, and inside from AVO, Norbert, and Yutien. The zone is not as terrifying as before, and we have players who can create when needed. Maybe with a bit more training and exposure, we will also have a consistent inside threat.

Clearly there is room for improvement, but as it is, the future does look bright.

Looking forward

Our last game is against Adamson. The Falcons waxed hot from outside in blasting UE over the weekend. With nothing to play for except pride, Adamson will go all out for a win on Thursday.

Our team will need to play active perimeter defense, and be on the guard for the individual penetration drives so favored by Coach Austria. But our team did it in the first round, finally beating a team which had bedeviled us for the past 2 years. They know the formula for success against the Falcons, the game plan is in place. It’s now just a matter of execution.

When (not if) we win, we have at least a tie for a final 4 berth. It will depend on the result of the replay between FEU and NU. If FEU wins, we take the last slot outright. If NU wins, we have a playoff. At least the future is squarely in our hands. Which is the way we wanted it.