The Lyceum Pirates: A painful loss and a need to get big; no, bigger.
by rick olivares
The Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates suffered one of its worst losses in recent years when it got clobbered by Adamson 90-60 yesterday at the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup at the San Juan Arena. The Pirates are theoretically a better team this year with a more mature forward-center Joseph Gabayni and an explosive corps that has Shaq Allanes, Wilson Baltazar, and Jesper Ayaay. They have a little more depth with Dexter Zamora, the athletic but inconsistent Jebb Bulawan, Paul Soliman and the up and coming Reymar Caduyac.
Lyceum opened the tournament with a pulsating 91-82 win over a Mapua team that tried to rally but lost steam. They followed that up with an 89-84 heartbreaker to Letran; a match that was lost in the final minute of play.
Still feeling good about themselves, the Pirates next faced a dangerous, tough, and deeper UE squad. They battled close until the forth period when the full court pressure defense proved to be too much. Lyceum gave away 31 fourth period points and 31 turnovers (against UE’s 14) in a galling 91-75 loss.
If that match showed the need to work on handing the full court press, the next one served notice that the dire need to get bigger.
The Adamson Falcons are an enigma. They are no doubt, one of three UAAP teams that run similar pressure defenses yet are a odd mixture of Fil-Ams and homegrown talent with a moody and unpredictable center in Papi Sarr.
Sarr, the second year Cameroonian center can be dominant in one game and invisible in the next.
During Adamson’s tournament opener against La Salle, he was on the bench for the majority of the first half due to clumsy foul trouble. When he returned in the second half, he was largely ineffective with the Green Archers holding on for a 98-88 victory.
For Adamson’s next match, an 84-75 loss to Ateneo, two key players got untracked — Sarr and back-up center Dawn Ochea who both combined for 30 points and 15 rebounds.
The Pirates tried to pressure the Falcons who had yet to fully imbibe the pressure defense that Adamson head coach Franz Pumaren preaches. The Falcons held them off with some nifty three-point sniping by Jerrick Ahanmisi who had his best game as a Falcon in the tournament so far and that helped Adamson post a 40-34 halftime lead.
At the half, with more instructions to attack the basket, the Pirates were suddenly ripped apart by Sarr’s 16 third period points (including five rebounds and one block). Sarr literally showed both his team and opponents his moves — at least when the spirit moves him. He spun around Gabayni for an and-one, danced around him for a nifty hook and another three-point play, and even hit a medium range jumper of which he is most capable of doing.
By his onslaught’s end, Adamson had turned what was a close game into a rout, 68-43, by third period’s end.
However, it wasn’t over. After Sarr went to the bench, his game done. Ochea came in and scored the next eight points on undergoal stabs, hooks, and lay-ins. Then Khristian Bernardo got in the act with a nifty undergoal shot off an assist by Ochea. Soon, another forward center, Cristian Garcia got in the act as well.
Adamson got 39 points and 16 rebounds from their bigs. Gabayni, hapless by his lonesome, finished with eight points and four rebounds. His other teammates, stretch players at most, tried to fill in at the slot, but all the more they got pounded inside.
Clearly, the loss — and the lead at one point was a whopping 37 points — underscored the important or what big man Jean Victor Nguidjol brought to last year’s squad. Nguidjol in now in the United States playing for the Austin Spurs in the NBA D-League.
Harry Nzeusseu could help. But the word is “could.” He’s been injured and the jury is still out on what he can give the Pirates.
During Lyceum’s loss to UE, they actually outrebounded the Red Warriors. It was the turnovers that killed them. Against Lyceum, the rebounding difference, though going the way for Adamson, wasn’t much. But the inside scoring really put a number on the Pirates.
And they haven’t even faced the taller Perpetual Help Altas with their outstanding duo of Bright Akhuetie and Prince Eze.
The Arellano Chiefs are built a little more similarly — lots of high scoring guards and forwards with one bright spot at center. Except that the Chiefs backcourt of Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Michael Salado could be one of the best set of two-way players not only in the NCAA but in the entire Philippines.
And there are the San Beda Red Lions… Lord knows what kind of squad they are going to put on the floor. No doubt, they’ll be good.
Last year’s Letran Knights showed that a team without a legitimate center can win a NCAA title. Sure. But it isn’t going to be like that every year. You can win one here. But it won’t be every year.
The Lyceum Pirates are good. They have a good and talented core. But they need a little more help inside. The NCAA season starts in a little over a month. There’s time to add a bit more size. The question is, is there anyone available.