My thoughts after Ateneo’s loss to DLSU.
by rick olivares table from abs-cbn
At the start of the season, I pegged La Salle to sweep the entire campaign. Not even the loss of Aldin Ayo and Jeron Teng for the first round match against Ateneo would derail my feelings that La Salle would still fashion out a win. And they did, 97-81, to sweep the first round, 7-0.
I’d like to reiterate that the Green Archers have fully imbibed Ayo’s system. They have since the start of the summer leagues.
Furthermore, it is Mbala that drives this team, not Teng as good as he is. Mbala gives them the confidence to shoot because they know someone will rebound that ball. And he gives the perimeter players an opportunity to gamble on defense because they know he is quick to recover to the basket.
Lastly, they are a deep team. You go up and down that bench, everyone can play. Winning during the summer has given them the confidence they need. Close shaves in the first round doesn’t mean anything. They have taken everyone’s best shot and they are still undefeated. And now they are starting to hum like that well-oiled machine that we saw during the summer.
Having said that, I am not down that Ateneo lost. I am more disappointed at how the game was played.
Let me get this out of the way… this year is the learning curve. It is a young team with some players who would not have probably made the roster were it not for that pre-season debacle. There are many players who didn’t get a lot of minutes last season while some are returning to action after a year off. Furthermore, there’s a new coach and a new system.
Yeah, so does the other team. Aye, there’s the rub. Still, I think that this too is a learning curve for our new coach. Same thing happened to Norman Black and Bo Perasol. A pro coach tends to struggle in the return to the college game (it is played with far fewer minutes and there’s a shorter leash on fouls before penalty situation to name a few differences). Conversely, it is the same for the college coach who moves up to the pros (check out Franz Pumaren, Pido Jarencio, Junel Baculi, and Leo Austria). On the contrary, our friends from Taft seem to have more luck with first time coaches since Franz Pumaren (there’s also Juno Sauler who won on his first year and Ayo is on his way to another championship).
Having said that, the coaching staff of Ateneo will get this down pat and I believe that and know that. We’ve seen that before.
So why am I disappointed? With all due respect, here are my thoughts….
I thought that Ateneo didn’t offer La Salle anything different. Not sure if Ateneo was slowing down the pace to play a grind it out game similar to what they employed during the FilOil semi-finals. That might have worked for FEU and NU but those teams are better in rebounding and have the inside operators. Ateneo…. Well, it depends if Chibueze Ikeh plays well.
The halfcourt… I believe you are playing into La Salle’s hands. For one, they have a better work ethic. Two, they have several rim protectors. Third, that didn’t work in Ateneo’s three previous matches with them during the summer. And fourth, if you don’t bring the energy, that’s going to be a struggle. I thought at the very least, Ateneo should have come out in the manner in which they played FEU and Adamson. It was somewhat there early in the game until the unforced errors and poor decisions and La Salle’s defense took Ateneo out. This game was practically over in the second quarter. When the Blue Eagles didn’t come out with any fire after the halftime break what chance did we have? To rally by sniping from the outside?
On the halfcourt set, the offense was too predictable. Weave, cut, and look for the open man. Sure the last one worked in the first quarter. But once the pressure defense was on, that was it.
Now why don’t Ateneo’s bigs attack? From the get go they don’t look to attack. They went about the predictable selves trying to pass out from the short corner or the elbow. La Salle knows that and they were just waiting to pick off the passes. They pilfered the ball 16 times! Isaac Go had the right mindset which is to be aggressive inside.
Furthermore, DLSU would rather have Kris Porter shooting threes where he is a combined 4-12. While that isn’t too bad, you need people to rebound. Ateneo is already at sixth place in terms of rebounding.
Why isn’t that ball pushed? As it is the guards dribble too much. Then they dribble into a corner where they cough up the ball.
You might point out that we are dead last in fastbreak points but is there a genuine attempt to run? Ateneo averaged 28 defensive rebounds a match entering the game against La Salle. Yet the Blue Eagles only have 3.5 fastbreaks attempted per game. That is the fewest in the league.
I notice how they pull up and ease off the pedal so everyone moves into position. Why wait for the opponent’s defense to set up? This squad is a guard-small forward team. Lots of small players who like to run and gun.
Of course you need to rebound to run so why aren’t we grabbing those boards?
On defense, how many times did Ateneo scramble to cover the corners when they were packing the lane?
This is why I question some of this so-called “role player” stuff (not the current coaching staff but in general terms). Shouldn’t a player be developed so his skills improve every year? I don’t know if GBoy Babilonia could be the second coming of Ford Arao who was mostly an underperforming power forward and center until his final season when he put it all together. And I am of the belief that every single player on the court can score and not just one or two guys (but you still need your go-to guys to lead you). Of course, I cannot claim to know what goes on inside. I can only surmise from my perch.
After DLSU won the FilOil Flying V Premier Cup, Ayo boldly proclaimed that “labas na baraha nila” and they had nothing left to hide. It was up to everyone else to adjust.
Watching La Salle is like a team going on light speed while Ateneo is like the Millennium Falcon with its hyperdrive malfunctioning.
It was noted that they were not only superbly conditioned but the Green Archers liked the physical contact. You need look no farther than the Lady Eagles volleyball team to see the boon of a physically stronger team. How many Blue Eagles were sent to the floor after a bump or what? I know that a few years ago a strategy was developed to help Nico Elorde take the contact and not lose the ball. Why can’t we see that now? The only statistical category that Ateneo led was in floor burns and falls.
Going back to what I said about not giving La Salle a new look, what I mean is something totally different. Why not press them? Yes, press. See how they handle it. Hey we tried everything including playing them physical. I recall some two decades ago when then Blue Eagles Chot Reyes had the cojones to throw back the triangle and two that Derrick Pumaren used in La Salle’s first round win over Ateneo. The result was a massive upset.
So how do you beat DLSU?
You really have to play the perfect game. In their three close matches against FEU, NU, and UE the only team to outscore the Green Archers in the paint was FEU 38-32. But DLSU hammered them from the outside. That was all NU and UE could do against them – shoot from the outside.
So to beat this La Salle squad, you have to play the perfect game inside and outside on top of matching or exceeding their effort. You have to be perfect against a team that is chasing perfection.
While it’s back to the drawing board… I don’t feel too bad. As I previously wrote, this is like 2005 all over again – a learning curve where the team will take its lumps and get better. It’s all part of the process.
Having written all of that, I can’t wait to see how the Blue Eagles bounce back not only adjustments-wise but also to the teams they lost to in the first round.