Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Analysis: Ateneo 79 vs UP 64

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Analysis: Ateneo 79 vs UP 64
by rick olivares

It was a very good win by Ateneo over Katipunan neighbor UP and over former coach Bo Perasol. The two-game win streak prepares them for the final match of the first round against unbeaten La Salle.

Why good because of several things:

Chibueze Ikeh was a huge factor in the last two wins. Against UE, he compiled 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block. Against UP, he put up better numbers – 14 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 1 block. As with the match versus the Red Warriors, the second year center was a factor when Ateneo turned the game around and when the Blue Eagles made its final run against the Fighting Maroons.

Ikeh’s activeness and willingness to engage inside the paint augurs well for Ateneo. The two consecutive strong performances should boost his confidence en route to another meeting with Ben Mbala.

The inside game helped overhaul that small deficit and rule the battle of the boards – 42-29 and 32-26 inside points as well as this – 14-6 in second chance points. The willingness to take the game inside, a strength of UP, put them to the test more so since they do not have a solid rim protector. It could be Andrew Harris but more on that later.

The consistent inside operators for Ateneo have been Mike Nieto and Vince Tolentino. That activity coupled with Ikeh’s springing to life has been a huge factor in Ateneo finding its legs after that stinging loss to Adamson.

Now, as solid and active as Ikeh was, two other key components in Ateneo’s wins were the performances of Thirdy Ravena and Anton Asistio.

This win over UP was the most that Ravena was able to get to the basket since the season opener against UST. Almost no one could guard him one on one. As it was against NU, La Salle will look for ways to stop that drive to the basket. Thirdy finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds to go with 3 assists and 1 block. Once he got going, so did the rest of the team.

Asistio on the other hand, has been one of the best shooters in the league this season aside from Adamson’s Jerrick Ahanmisi and La Salle’s Aljun Melecio. With his range finder on, he’s been huge help in busting open that zone especially with his quick release.

Since the summer, under the baton of Tab Baldwin, the Blue Eagles have patiently moved that ball around to work for the best possible shot. I appreciate that. The man after all was a disciple of the triangle offense for the longest time until he adapted some of the principles of the dribble drive offense with the national team.

There are times, watching the game versus UP that I why they didn’t immediately attack the defense rather than waiting for that 3-2 zone and later man-zone to settle down. But the Blue Eagles patiently found their way and on a couple of occasions, answered the Fighting Maroons’ run with a more devastating one of their own.

As for UP, a couple of things…
They lapsed once more into isolation and one-on-one play….

You have to credit Ateneo’s switching defense for making life difficult for the Fighting Maroons’ offensive-wise. They finished with only five (yes, five) assists, their lowest dish totals of the season. And they were averaging 14 assists coming into this game. Again, a tip of the hat to the defense by Ateneo.

Another is the play of Andrew Harris. We have pointed out since the summer when the Maroons came under the tutelage of Perasol that his strong play inside has given UP another dimension. Since the start of the UAAP, we have not seen that aggression. Oh, he tried in the first game against Adamson – you remember the blowout loss – but he has been negated and his game once more regressing. His minutes and numbers are all down.

The Fighting Maroons have somewhat of a similar situation to Ateneo’s in which they have not much of a frontline with a bunch of scoring tweeners. Except this is a more veteran crew than the Blue Eagles. For UP to win, they need to play better as a team and they have to have strong inside play and mind you, not only coming from the drives of Paul Desiderio and Jet Manuel but the traditional pound it inside guy. Harris was supposed to be that this year but it’s time to call for an all-points bulletin for a person missing in action. You can say the pre-season is the pre-season with far less pressure. Sure it is but you build from that. You should.

More to the inside game – UP attempted only 12 free throws (although they hit 10 of them); a testament to their propensity to shoot from the outside. In contrast, Ateneo had 30 attempts from the FT line where they cashed in on 22 of them.

I’ll say this though, one concern I’d like to point out is that when some players who can score a lot aren’t making their shots, they pretty much do not do anything else. They don’t crash the boards, create plays, or even play defense. So they become one dimensional, easy to guard, and an observer with the best seat in the house on either side of the floor.

Now for both sides, they have a tough wrap up to their first round – Ateneo, now at 4-2, will go up against the heavily favored La Salle while UP, falling to 1-5, closes out against NU. How they prep for those matches will be just as interesting.

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