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Analysis: Ateneo 73 vs. UST 69
by rick olivares pic by joseph nocos
This game, a 73-69 win over UST, is par for the course for these Ateneo Blue Eagles. If you saw them during the summer, they played exactly this way — a maddening start then mostly followed by a strong finish. Sometimes it was good enough for a win, sometimes not.
I guess it is all right considering this is a young team and there is so much to learn. So maybe a little patience for the young padawans is in order. It was a tough game and that made it an even better win because it was won despite so many things not going right.
What am I getting at?
One, the poor and sluggish start. Okay. Jitters. I get it. Still as they always say, do not run away from your offense.
I know that Tab Baldwin wants the team to make the extra pass. In the first period, I thought that the Blue Eagles were pulling the trigger early in the shot clock. Not much ball movement. Maybe one pass then launch. Lots of raised eyebrows here. Gigil factor, you think?
They addressed that in the second period. The problem was, the outside artilllery was firing duds.
Why did we have trouble and look awful for the most part? Aside from the missed open shots, the bigs couldn’t get going. Isaac Go gave inspired minutes while GBoy Babilonia rescued himself late in the game from joining fellow bigs Kris Porter and Chibueze Ikeh who looked like they didn’t have a clue about what was going on. Yes, we heard the latter nursed a high fever a few days ago but he dressed right? And the soft games seem to be the norm rather than the exception. In contrast, William Afoakwah, who is a transferee from La Salle, gave a better account for himself as he tried to go hard a lot.
With those problems, UST threw a 1-2-2 zone at us to try and contain the top of the key drives of Thirdy Ravena and try and stop Aaron Black’s explosion; the two Blue Eagles who carried the cudgels on both ends of the court early in the game. As I have said continuously since last season, Aaron Black will be the next big time Ateneo scorer. And he has been and will continue to be. Imagine what he could be like if he were a few more inches taller. He could be like Ray Parks. That zone gave Ateneo problems. With the layers of defenders, Aaron Black stopped attacking the basket.
I also wondered about the rotation. Raffy Verano played well in limited minutes stopping Louie Vigil on two post-plays. Soon after he is subbed out, Vigil scores on a three-point play off Ravena. Am not saying Thirdy can’t do the job; am saying Verano should have been used a little more. And why did it take so long for Jolo Mendoza to come into the game?
Adrian Wong struggled mightily. He hit a big shot late in the game but we needed someone to stabilize that backcourt. Holy guacamole, you wonder how we will do against the La Salle press and we saw what happened in the summer. We got chewed out. If Black didn’t hit that long jumper to give Ateneo an eight point lead late in the game then the Blue Eagles could have been in bigger trouble because the momentum was clearly on UST's side. That was the big shot. That righted the ship. Imagine if it didn’t then that lout in the Ateneo gallery who screamed at the UST gallery to go home when the Blue Eagles stormed to a 14-point lead in the early fourth period would have never heard the end of it from the coaches and fans of other schools who sat nearby. Show some class, dude.
Both teams' point guards had poor outings.
Matt Nieto was 1-4 with zero assists. Wong was 1-11 from the field with zero assists. That cancelled out the subpar game of UST’s Marvin Lee and Jon Sheriff although Renzo Subido did well with six assists. I know that Ateneo also wants Mendoza and Asistio to run the point as well. The latter dished off three assists. Assists for Asistio. Living up to his name now, is he?
When Mendoza and later Asistio hit those three-long bombs that changed the complexion of the game. It gave life to Ateneo. And for UST it was their undoing.
Rookie head coach Boy Sablan had done a great job with his wards repeatedly attacking the interior of Ateneo that is without an intimidating rim protector. He expertly shuffled his men and unveiled terrific packages in Jan Macasaet and Regie Basibas who will round out into very good players, studs for the Growling Tigers. And he looks to finally play Jeepy Faundo, something the previous coaches didn’t do much. Those three gave UST a lot of energy and hustle plays.
Louie Vigil was solid. Look at the numbers - 21 points 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Could have had a triple double. Maybe Kent Lao and Embons Bonleon can also help out in the scoring.
Here’s what I think went wrong. He needed to get Bonleon back in the game. But then again, Basibas was playing well. And Sablan stuck to that zone. When Ateneo was hitting those long bombs, he called time. I was surprised that out of the timeout he still stuck to the zone with the Tigers scrambling to cover the shooter. This is where Ateneo made some of its best reads of the game moving the ball around. If Asistio and Wong hit their shots, they would have busted the game wide open. At that point, in my opinion, he should have played man-to-man.
Despite that, I thought that Sablan for stretches outcoached his more season counterparts across the court. UST has nothing to be ashamed about. They’ve got a good coaching staff and a team in place.
Ateneo lost the battle of the rebounds (52-48 including 23 offensive rebounds by the Growling Tigers), free throws (25 attempts to Ateneo’s 6), assists (17-16), and turnovers (16-14 in UST’s favor). The Tigers might have owned the boards but the Blue Eagles posted more inside points (40-30) and perimeter points (28-20), and fastbreak points (12-4). That was because of — despite the bricks from the outside — good shooting by Black (67%), Ravena (53%), Mendoza (67%), and Go (50%).
On the defensive end, Ateneo was pretty good — 8 blocks to 1, 7 steals to 3, 13-8 in turnover points.
It will be interesting to see how both teams progress and check their concerns the rest of the way.