Redemption or Revenge
UST vs. NU
by rick olivares
The script is falling into place… but as to who rides into the sunset the hero is anyone’s guess.
The UST Growling Tigers have the opportunity to end nine years of futility and finally give its long suffering veterans a chance at cage glory. Their leader, Kevin Ferrer has been denied three times in the Finals — one as a senior in high school versus Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and twice in the college finals against Ateneo and La Salle. Karim Abdul no longer as dominant as he was years ago but still plenty effective would like to go out with a bang as well.
But the National University Bulldogs…. are in familiar territory as they win one elimination game after another and are in the unlikely position of going back into the Finals after looking dead in the water after its second round loss to Ateneo.
Some Thomasians intimated that they wanted the Tigers to face NU more than Ateneo who matched up well against their team. They conveniently forget that it was the Bulldogs who dealt UST its first loss of Season 78, 55-54. The Tigers of course, got even in the second round with a 65-57 win.
Having said that, NU is the hottest team heading into the Final Four taking three straight over La Salle, UP, and FEU. The defending champions are in their territory. And they have the Tigers right where they want them.
During the Bulldogs’ fabled run in Season 77, they took down some tough nemesis and long-time tormentors along the way — Charles Mammie and the UE Red Warriors and the Ateneo Blue Eagles who they have been nipping at their claws for quite some time.
Now… it’s UST and all the heartbreak they have inflicted on Ray Parks and company. Gelo Alolino and Kyle Neypes were around for some of those crushing losses in the semifinals of Seasons 75 and Season 76. It’s definitely time for payback…. if they can exact it. Furthermore, the one constant in those damning defeats was Kevin Ferrer shutting down and manhandling Parks.
UST averages 30.5 points in the first half and 29.0 in the second half against NU.
Nu averages 28 points per half.
This means that both teams even with the Bulldogs having two studs scoring in Alfred Aroga and Gelo Alolino, they can keep pace with UST’s Big Three. It is now up to the supporting casts to tilt the balance.
The margin for error is small. One big run at the end game like how UST took the second round match can swing the tide.
What does UST need to do to send NU packing?
They have to be concerned with the rebound battle. In both matches, NU outrebounded them and got more second chance points. When UST won their second match up, even if the Bulldogs still lost, they kept pace in terms of fast break points. You don’t want NU off to the races.
The Tigers like to play a man-zone that will shift to a 1-3-1 with Kevin Ferrer playing behind Abdul. That has allowed him to become a safety for his squad as well as a someone to clean up that glass. When Ferrer gets that ball, the do-it all swingman can also bring it down and set the play.
Their Big Three of Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, and Karim Abdul need to score. Daquioag was stymied in the first round loss but in the second round encounter, all three got going offensively. But they will need Louie Vigil, Mario Bonleon, and Marvin Lee to do their part. That will allow their Big Three some rest and to conserve their fouls. It is hard to stop UST when they are getting major contributions from a lot of sources.
Especially Marvin Lee who will eventually inherit this team and become the King Tiger. Shades of Japs Cuan… a tough and gritty guard who can drive and kill you from the outside.
UST needs to attack NU’s interior. In both elims matches, UST took a lot of shots from the perimeter. Even in during their win, they were a poor 4/14 in layups against NU, that has is the league’s best defensive squad. If their outside artillery can’t find the mark, then they’ll be in lots of trouble against the Bulldogs whose guards all like to drive inside.
In UST’s loss to NU, they shot better from three-point range than two-point range! In their win, they shot poorly once more. They need to get to the line and put NU into penalty and to hit some huge three-point bombs to get their gallery going.
While UST Coach Bong dela Cruz likes to talk defense, it has been their offense that has gotten them to where they are. So in this match up it will be the league’s second highest scoring team against the UAAP’s best defenders. Care to wager what wins championships?
What does NU need to do to send this to a do-or-die match?
Aside from playing defense, they need their Triple A Battery to get going — that’s Aroga, Alolino, and JJ Alejandro. NU has suffered from the lack of that third scorer. Last season, Alejandro came through late in the season. If he can reprise that then that puts NU in a huge position to advance and possibly win it all over again.
If they can prevent those booming and consecutive triples from energizing UST that would help.
They will need Kyle Neypes to approximate Glenn Khobuntin. Neypes endured years of benching and poor play but became a part of the rotation last season and key one more so this year. It his scoring binges this second round that has allowed them to also stay in the hunt for a back-to-back title. They will need him.
Save for Alolino, NU’s backcourt has been largely ineffective. Rev Diputado and Alejandro need to get going.
If Jonathan Tansingco and Jeff Javillionar can spell Aroga some quality minutes, NU will be in a position to forge a do-or-die game.
The game will come down to the team’s veteran leaders. Who can impose their will on this match and dictate plays. These are the games that make your reputations.
For UST it’s redemption after years of heartbreak. For NU, they’d love nothing more than to hand some payback and get another chance UAAP glory.