Looking at Ateneo’s loss to UST
by rick olivares
It could have been the perfect game for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. One that could have gotten them on a serious roll. Instead, the team, after a painful 68-58 loss will have to lick its wounds at having let one slip away and how.
Without a doubt, the UST Growling Tigers deserved it. They wanted it. They hung tough. Got the lucky breaks and executed down the stretch. And now they are once more atop the standings with a 4-1 record. Now it is they who are poised to go on a roll.
Am I upset or depressed about the loss?
NO. Sure, it would have been nice to get a win. And 4-1 is definitely much better than 3-2.
However, I am all right — somewhat — because it is good to know that the blue and white can play UST. The team is learning to play better. There are rough edges and the UST game is a textbook example of why the game is played for 40 minutes. The defense is better. The ball movement is better. The end game execution though needs a little more work. But there is hope!
Although, the Blue Eagles scored only nine points in the first quarter, they played well. How so when UST led 12-9 after 10 minutes played?
Well, the Growling Tigers attempted to post up their Blue Eagle counterparts in their first three possessions. Twice Ed Daquioag backed Matt Nieto down the lane and Karim Abdul thought he’d have his way with Ponso Gotaldera. The result was three stops and UST had to rethink their offense.
For much of the game, Ateneo had taken out Abdul and Daquioag. Karim was stopped on single and double coverage while Daquioag picked up quick fouls sending him to the bench. After three periods played, the two had combined for a measly seven points.
The problem was the remaining third of their Big Three.
Stopping Kevin Ferrer on the other hand was something else. He had 16 points after three and was keeping UST in the game. There isn’t much else you can do when Ferrer is in a zone. He shot 60% (6-10) from three-point range but was 2-7 from two point territory. He hit timely shots and rejected Kiefer Ravena’s last gasp attempt.
UST is dead last in bench scoring with 13.0 ppg so they rely heavily on their Big Three. In contrast, Ateneo’s reserves total 25.6ppg. In this match, the Tigers’ bench outscored Ateneo’s 18-10 so you can imagine where the Blue Eagles missed a lot.
Ateneo looked to blow out or cruise to a win after they posted a 16-point lead thanks largely to great defense and terrific passing. The last 16-point spread was at the 2:48 mark following a Nieto layup, 52-36.
Then came that substitution at the 2:04 mark that changed the entire complexion of the match. Kiefer Ravena, GBoy Babilonia, and Matt Nieto went out for Jerie Pingoy, Chiueze Ikeh, and Gwyne Capacio (with Aaron Black and John Apacible left from the team that helped make the run). It’s not a such a bad idea. two minutes left, a sizeable lead, you want your starters to get some rest so they are ready for the fourth period. The coaches expect the bench to have an impact and hold the fort if not increase the lead. Furthermore, sometimes it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. This time it was the latter.
The bench, for the first time this season, had a tough time. Before Pingoy’s two free throws in the fourth period, they had only contributed eight points.
Here’s what I thought at the time of that substitution — why wasn’t Von or Kiefer left on the floor? I know I have previously said that the five-peat is long over but I keep thinking, at least one of the main scorers should always be on the floor (that’s what Norman did during those years). But it is a different time with a different philosophy or rotation.
One might say that the flow of Ateneo’s game was interrupted by Pingoy looking for his shot.
My answer? Yes and no.
Yes, because that can be said with his first attempt as it was obvious he got tunnel vision seeing the basket.
No, because after the first attempt, he had some great looks. As did Aaron Black and Gwyne Capacio.
Yes, at the 00:57 mark when he missed a jumper when maybe he should have given the ball to Ravena.
No, because the bigger culprit for me was the team falling in love with the outside shot and missing free throws.
Let’s start with the latter.
Ateneo hit 10 of 17 FT attempts for a poor 59%. And the Blue Eagles are the second worst free throw shooting team this season (63-109 for a 58% clip). The worst is UE at 62-112 and 55%.
As for the outside shot, Ateneo jacked up seven triples in the last five minutes. All of them were duds.
And there’s the matter of four fourth period turnovers to the two of UST (Ateneo had a total of 16 turnovers to the seven of the Tigers).
Speaking of duds, the two endgame droughts hurt.
The first was the final 2:04 of the third period where UST shaved off six points from the lead to make it 52-42.
From the 8:50 to the 8:32 mark of the fourth period, Ateneo had three attempts in one possession. They missed all their chances.
And Ateneo would only score three more points the rest of the way — all from free throws as UST was the recipient of a missed outside call (karma for the Jerie Pingoy steal off Gelo Alolino in the NU game) and a loose ball that Pessumal was unable to track down. Each time Kevin Ferrer buried a triple.
With Ferrer on fire, Daquiaog and Abdul came alive in the last few minutes while Jon Sheriff as well in the endgame.
In the meantime though, here are the other takeaways from the match:
It looks like Ateneo coach Bo Perasol had settled on a starting five of Ravena, Pessumal, Nieto, Gotladera, and Babilonia. That isn’t so bad. I like it in fact. Nieto has been a revelation as he showed a lot of guts and head-up play more than Pingoy or even Hubert Cani. But that is not a bad, three-headed point guard monster.
Pessumal, in the last two matches, has emerged as the second go-to scorer after Ravena. Now the search is one for more consistent scoring inside the paint. You really need that post presence to balance it out.
The Blue Eagles have come out with better game plans for the past two matches. It’s that endgame maturity that is now what is needed. So it’s a loss and a painful lesson the team will have to learn. Hopefully, it is something to use as a springboard for their last two matches of the first round.