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Analysis: NU 70 vs Ateneo 60
by rick olivares pic by joseph nocos
I thought that National University came out better prepared for this game than Ateneo.
Like how FEU won over Adamson in the first game of this UAAP Sunday doubleheader, the Tamaraws shut down the Falcons top two scorers in point guard Rob Manalang and shooting guard Jerrick Ahanmisi. The younger brother of pro player Maverick Ahanmisi may have led his team with 19 points but they were scattered and limited to certain spurts that didn’t create much of an impact.
With that in mind for NU, it was obvious that they had to stop Thirdy Ravena and Aaron Black who both led Ateneo in scoring during the summer as well as their UAAP Season 79 debut. Following the game, it was mission accomplished for NU as the two finished with a measly 6 points and 8 rebounds. The duo shot a combined 3-16 although they did have 6 assists so you know they were trying to help their team's cause.
I told Ravena a day after the UST game that NU will shut down that lane that was so open versus UST. True enough, it was mostly shut down. And if it weren’t for the stellar game of Mike Nieto, this would have been an early blowout early loss.
Both teams battled to a draw in the first half. The third quarter adjustment aside from the fastbreak and stifling defense, used to be Ateneo’s hallmark during the Norman Black years. That is now but a memory and is long gone. While matches are won in the fourth period, the third quarter adjustment once propelled Ateneo to a win. Well, they are still searching for that.
Instead, NU, that has been the rival for the past six seasons (aside from UST), has owned second half adjustments. And in this game, they closed it out better, outscored the Blue Eagles on the break, 9-0, and ruled the boards (46-39) and pounded Ateneo inside, 34-24 points. The Bulldogs had a more comfortable second half and finished with four players in double digits (unlike their opening day win over UE) — Rev Diputado with 16, Matt Sale with 12 Alfred Aroga despite playing on a hurt foot had 11, and Reggie Morido had 10.
Morido is a key component to NU’s game. He is slotted in to fill that vacancy of Glenn Khobuntin, the slashing and hard-nosed defending forward. And he did just that in the second half of play.
Ateneo isn’t a very good shooting team, it doesn’t rebound well, it doesn’t run very well, and doesn’t score much. What it can do is play good defense. Last season, just to underscore that fact, Ateneo was fifth in scoring and third in defense; an improvement in the latter part as they climbed from sixth to third from 2014 to 2015. This Season 79, Ateneo is dead last in scoring and second to NU in defense. If you can’t have your transition score for you when you already possess an anemic offense then you’re in a world of trouble.
Leading off with the defense is the better option, however, they didn’t get it done. Ateneo got killed on the boards and never recovered from that melt down in the third period where Blue Eagles forgot to mark NU sniper Matt Salem. Salem finished with 12 points including three triples that gave NU the lead for good in the third period.
With Ravena and Black silenced, Ateneo didn’t not much from the backcourt save for a late flurry of points (24 points spread across three point guards and a paltry three assists). Key players who could have helped out sat it out at a crucial interval. Aside from Mike Nieto, Isaac Go is another who gave another good account of himself only to find himself sitting and back very late in the game.
Sure there is room to grow and it is still early in the tournament. But the questions that were asked even after the win over UST persist - who will carry the Blue Eagles, what is going on with the rotation, and will the bigs stand tall.
Well, there are 12 more matches to see this through.