Am not doing game recaps if you're looking for that. Go read the newspaper guys for that.
|Is this a sign of the times or just merely a sign that pertains to something else? Had to get this photo. Felt it would be apt.|
Five things to take away from this loss to UST
by rick olivares
I want to thank the UST Growling Tigers for sticking this one to us. That was quite a game and a comeback. They could have rolled over and said, “Let’s go get them in the next game.” But no. They instead doused cold water on us. And now the cold hard reality of falling into a below .500 hole is staring at us since the impressive National University Bulldogs are just around the corner. They made short work of the UE Red Warriors and they are the one team that has beaten us more often in all tournaments in the last few years.
Whatever happened last year -- in these past five years against UST or anyone else for the matter -- none of that matters anymore. That was then and this is now. Everyone has reloaded big time.
Now this one was a longtime coming. After Kiefer Ravena hit a game winning shot to beat the Tigers in the last FilOil tournament, Tigers head coach Pido Jarencio said while holding his forefinger and thumb close, “Konti na lang. Malapit na namin silang talunin.”
And they did.
And here’s how I feel the morning after.
Teams with multiple outside shooters give us trouble.
After five matches in Season 75, teams are shooting at an average of 24.6%.
NU jacked up 33 treys against UE while the Red Warriors threw up 19 of their own. FEU and UST hoisted up 15 and 16 respectively during their opening day match up.
La Salle surprisingly has not really gone downtown to buy a basket. They only attempted 11 to the 19 of UP.
Against us, UST threw up 11 while connecting on five. None was bigger than the one Jeric Teng hit at the four-minute mark that gave the Tigers a seven-point cushion, 65-58. They may shoot atrociously but because they are volume bombardiers they do hit the big one when they seem to need it most.
With Greg Slaughter in trouble, UST positioned Teng, Aljon Mariano, Clark Bautista, and Jeric Fortuna around the arc. That gave them the space to operate inside or drive inside.
Should we beware because the Bulldogs have at least seven players who like to bomb from parking lot?
When we needed a three-ball in the game’s final seconds, Kiefer Ravena was way off the mark. But Juami Tiongson who has easily been the most consistent player on the Blue Eagles knocked down one from downtown that put us a point behind. And he is not even a shooter in the sense of the word. We got away with not really having a three-point threat in the past few years but that never stopped me from wishing we had a deadeye shooter.
We need to pass that ball around.
We can make excuses that we were tired during last year’s Champions League. We can say we didn’t have our legs after training abroad. We can say that it’s early in the season. Sure it is. But the fact of the matter is we have not played well in a long time. Furthermore, we’ve been infested with bad habits. We’ve played in spurts and flashes, but not an entire game where everything is clicking. Heck, a short-handed San Sebastian team beat us in the Champions League. Those Stags couldn’t even beat an all-Filipino San Beda team and we crushed those same Red Lions last year.
Early in the match, we buried the UST Growling Tigers with a lesson in team defense and unselfishness with longtime UST killer Kirk Long watching from the patron section. Then suddenly the switch was flicked off.
The offense stagnated. The ball rotation was once more non-existent. Players began to look for their own shot. Errors piled up. And what was once a 17-point lead evaporated like an ice cube on a regular day in Kuwait. And “One Big Fight” died as a lump in my throat.
Sure the referees sent Greg Slaughter to the bench with eyebrow raising calls. But we should expect that by now that they will never call it fair or right. We just have to play through this and be smart about it rather than reacting to the calls.
The Tigers entered the game tense. Losing does that to a team. When they got into foul trouble we settled for jumpshots and isolation plays instead of taking it strong. Even worse, some of our players were never in the game. They were physically on the court but that was it. I certainly found it strange that some players were missing their spots on the floor. And they were angrily waving off teammates. Hey, guys. Haven’t we been running these sets for a while now?
It’s not dumping on you when you’re down. No. It’s not that. You cannot just hear the good and tune out the bad. It doesn’t work that way. You have to hear it.
We have this saying that it’s better to lose early than later. We are not taking anything away from the Tigers but we should have taken this.
The stats don’t say everything.
Ateneo outshot UST from the field (40% to 36.5%) and from the free throw line (79.2% to 75%). The Blue Eagles outrebounded UST overall (but the Tigers had more offensive rebounds 12-16), 43-41 and had more assists 16-10 and more blocks 9-2. We took them in the track meets with 23 fastbreak points to their 11.
UST had more turnovers 23 to our 20 but here is where they made their living – 21 turnover points while Ateneo mustered only nine.
They had four 24-second violations. But in the final minutes of play, Karim Abdul got to the line with a second left in their shot clock after he found space on the baseline to drive. Aljon Mariano also picked up an offensive rebound that chewed up more time on the shot clock.
Abdul who has always looked tentative around Greg Slaughter finally found the confidence in the last quarter (although you can say that Greg was in foul trouble). UST’s key players were fresh in the last quarter as their second unit did the job while we looked flustered. What the stats don't say is how UST really played with a lot more heart and energy in eking out this win. A well deserved one at that.
Juami Tiongson has slipped into the starter’s spot nicely.
In two matches, Tiongson has 16 assists for an average of eight dime drops per game. And get this – zero turnovers. He’s also averaged 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in slightly over 25 minutes per game. Those are some very solid numbers. And what has gone unnoticed is how he has played excellent defense on whoever he has been guarding.
Last season, you could see Juami flustered by the lack of playing time and he showed it when he got on the court. It was as if he had a chip on his shoulder. During the University Games in Roxas City, Juami came into his own because he was clearly the leader on the floor. In every game Ateneo played, he set the tempo for the game. I knew that we had found the successor to Emman Monfort.
He looked somewhat shaky in the pre-season but he got his bearings once more and his confidence is higher. With him starting he has concentrated on playmaking and has shot only when he needed to take one.
Every team gets up to play us.
This is not the early 1980s or 1990s when teams didn’t really give us a second look because even before the match it had “W” written all over for them even before the jumpball.
Look at how UE has played La Salle pretty well since last season. Teams get up to beat the big programs. Look at the way UST celebrated after their win. They finally got the eagle off their back. These Tigers have bite. It was their first win in five years? The celebration was warranted and more so it was a great comeback that as painful as it was I stood up to applaud their team.
Adamson ended their record of futility last season and were it not for a few minutes in the third quarter of the our season opener where we decided to share the ball instead of looking for our own shots then the game might have been close.
Opponents sense a vulnerability to this year’s Blue Eagles. Sitting in the stands during our Opening Day match against Adamson, I was next to some regulars from La Salle and they noted that the Blue Eagles don’t have the hunter’s mentality anymore. That we’ve gone from wanting to throttle everyone we face from the first second of the game to thinking we can turn the jets on anytime we wish. “That’s dangerous,” one friend of mine from La Salle opined. “There’s a lack of a killer instinct.”
Whether we agree with the assessment or not, we have to raise the level of play. UST came out with a lot of energy while we wilted at the worst possible time. Inside the dugout, some felt bad because they have not been in this situation before.
And that’s frightening because success can breed a sense of complacency. It’s not an excuse but we should thank UST for sticking it to us this early because there’s time to address the flaws.
That was a galling loss. Is the Drive for Five teetering? That is definitely too early to say but it was a loss that sends many a chilling reminder.
And tomorrow is another day.
Two played and 12 to go.
My other piece on Ateneo's loss to UST in ateneo.edu
Five reasons to be happy about the start of Ateneo's Drive for Five
Good friend Bob Guerrero was asking why I was wearing an Everton shirt yesterday when I am a Liverpool supporter. I said for one, it's blue and I am from Ateneo so there. And I cannot wear red to the game because it will look like I am supporting UE. And two, I don't dislike Everton. Big fan of Marouane Fellaini and John Heitinga and was wearing the shirt of the latter who plays center back (also for the Dutch national team). There's only one football team I dislike and I am not going to mention them here. Waste of space.