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Analysis: Ateneo 76 vs FEU 71
by rick olivares
It would be easy to say that Ateneo’s guards outplayed FEU’s in the Blue Eagles’ 76-71 win over the Tamaraws last Wednesday, September 14. But what is more apropos is to point to the defense and the late offensive surge that made it happen.
It was a superb effort by Ateneo bouncing back from that galling loss to National University over the previous weekend. They came into the game with a lot of energy and played some great switching defense on the Tamaraws who only stayed in the game early due to the hot shooting of Wendell Comboy.
Plus, the Blue Eagles weathered all the rallies of FEU and got a huge lift when Adrian Wong and Anton Asistio caught fire late in the game.
As for FEU, they will be very disappointed in this loss after impressive outings versus La Salle and Adamson.
Can it be inferred that this was a “chamba” win for Ateneo? No. Not at all. That is a slumbering giant there. There is talent up and down that roster. It just needs to be harnessed and for them to grow up in a hurry. Both teams are relatively young, most are finally getting long minutes and the big game exposure and experience is something they are soaking in. These two teams, along with Adamson and NU, are all coming up at the same time. They will have some monstrous battles for years to come as they compete (La Salle has lots of young talent as well but with some steady veteran hands).
If you look at Ateneo’s games - the wins and the loss -- the players they go to in the fourth are Adrian Wong, Anton Asistio, Mike Nieto, and Thirdy Ravena. Ravena was the one missing in the loss to NU. Aaron Black but after that first game and the good defense put on him by NU, he has been on the bench probably because he was hurt.
This game was the sort of win that Ateneo nailed during the pre-season — scrappy, ugly games that can be agonizing. That will be their identity for now until they find that next stud in the lane.
You can point out to the lack of maturity. Again, it is a young team. Chew on this nugget — thus far, the Blue Eagles' most consistent performer and the guy who has played with a lot of heart and hustle has been Mike Nieto. And to think he mostly sat last season after coming off a MVP performance during his senior year in high school. All this struggling will change maybe this season as it goes on; maybe next year.
While patience and understanding is required, in my opinion, there are still questions and concerns.
Let’s tackle Ateneo first.
The need for Chibueze Ikeh and the other bigs to produce.
The one to three spot players have provided the production. For Ateneo to eke out the big wins over the contenders, they will need a lot of production from the bigs.
Let’s not confuse inside points because the guards and forwards are getting to the rim. This is about inside production from Ikeh, Gboy Babilonia, Isaac Go, and Kris Porter.
They got that against FEU with Ikeh playing his best game so far (8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks) and team captain GBoy Babilonia who had three huge blocks in helping patrol that lane. But you’d like to see Ikeh impose himself. Given his height and what he showed last year (and in the pre-season), he can produce more. He did give FEU problems with his presence inside but someone that tall and powerful, I wonder why he doesn’t dunk that ball over someone. He needs to play harder and stronger.
As it is, Ateneo has been outrebounded in all games. You can steal a game or two here and there but not all the time.
The lack of production by the bigs means opposing teams will concentrate their defense on the players who are emerging as the go-to players.
Furthermore, the lack of a willingness to take it inside means less free throws. However, the win over FEU was the first time that Ateneo shot more free throws than the opponent. They just need to bring it every game.
Still the need for better playmaking from the point guards.
Yes, the ball does move around a lot better this year. A whole lot. But the assist production is down especially from the point guard position. Against FEU, the playmaking of the point guards…. another woeful 2 of 9 total assists.
Aaron Black and Vince Tolentino are leading the assist parade for Ateneo and to think Black didn’t play much versus FEU.
The need to find that regular rotation.
Sure it’s early and players are still finding themselves. The coaches are still in the process of finding the right rotation and mix of players. Just to note some baffling moves and non-moves. Good to see Jolo Mendoza come in and provide a spark. You kind of wonder what he could have done to help against NU. Isaac Go was doing well then he goes out. Ravena comes back late in the game. For Ateneo, he did in the nick of time.
Maybe that’s just me. But I do find it baffling.
Let’s look at FEU.
Are you worried about them at 1-2? No. Don’t be. There’s mild concern but they will figure things out. After all, they ran into three contenders in La Salle, Adamson, and Ateneo. Although NU and UE are still on deck and there is no way you cannot underestimate UST and UP.
Defending the perimeter.
FEU has had problems defending the perimeter. They got burned by La Salle, Adamson, and Ateneo. They could have been hurt by the Falcons except they misfired in the end. FEU’s strength has been its inside game but even so, you’ll need modest production from the perimeter to win. For Ateneo it has been the opposite.
Still no go to player.
In their three matches so far, it has been different players leading them in the fourth. Maybe Raymar Jose… but very inconsistent in the crunch except perhaps the game versus the Blue Eagles.
They repeatedly rallied against Ateneo that threatened to blow them away. But each time, they were repulsed. And some players who played well in previous games didn’t do so this time around.
Maybe Wendell Comboy is it? But I know that head coach Nash Racela likes his court generals to create and quarterback more than score. Comboy is another of those long line of FEU high scoring point guards from Johnny Abarrientos, Celino Cruz, Denok Miranda, Mark Barroca, RR Garcia, and Mike Tolomia. Abarrientos had a complete team. Ditto with Miranda and Tolomia. This is close to a complete team except it is young (we cannot keep from emphasizing that; same as Ateneo). But Comboy could be that go-to player.
Richard Escoto? Monbert Arong is really a supporting player. Axel Iñigo has shown flashes. Raymar Jose can do his share and you have to appreciate the work he puts in — from rebounding, assisting, and scoring. Jose joined them late in the pre-season after a hamstring injury. They also lost Steve Holmqvist to a stress fracture so that changed their rotation as well. But they need some leadership on and off the court.
Having said all of that, if you look at their stats, Comboy, Escoto, and Prince Orizu shoot better than 50% of their shots. Add Iñigo and Kimlee Bayquin. There it is. They have to find a way to get the ball to these guys.
Comboy - 45% from 3pt range and 54% from 2-pt range
Escoto - 53% from 2-pt range
Orizu - 56% from 2-pt range
Iñigo - 53% from 2-pt range
Bayquin - 50% from 2-pt range
The need for a good start to propel them.
In the Tamaraws’ two losses (the first was to La Salle), they lost every quarter. In their win over Adamson, they lost the first but took the last three periods.
This season is all about maturity for many squads save perhaps for La Salle and UP that have veteran line-ups (the latter has a different set of concerns). Unfortunately, you cannot lose too many games. La Salle is expected to pull away while everyone else hopes to battle for the three other slots in the Final Four.