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 28, 2017

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over UST

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over UST
by rick olivares

The biggest lesson last season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles was learning to win big games and well, finding their place in the system that was installed by Tab Baldwin.

This season, at 5-0 after defeating the UST Growling Tigers, 94-84, there are still things to learn. Not only for the players but also the coaching staff.

They have to learn to put the finishing touches on opponents. Crush them and not to settle for jump shots when they’ve racked up huge leads. If the Growling Tigers did better from the free throw line yesterday (they went 24-38 for 63% shooting), it might have been a different story.

They have to learn to play in spite of terrible, questionable, and suspicious calls. That game was bad? It could possibly get worse when the stakes get even higher. If Marvin Lee can get away with flopping at the slightest contact, they shouldn’t do the same but continue to go hard at the basket. At times, I felt they were hoping to get the same whistles as a result weren’t finishing strong at all.

Now that we’ve gotten the bile out of the way, here is what we can take away.

Other teams will take their cue from UST and throw us unusual fives on the floor. It is clear that the tall and athletic starting five gave us some trouble at the start of the game.

UST started Jordan Sta. Ana at the point guard role (even if he isn’t a true PG) with three forward in Marvin Romero, Zach Huang and Jorem Soriano and Jeepy Faundo at center.

Unusual or not, part of the game plan was to take it inside, see if they could get Chib Ikeh in foul trouble, and then bring in Steve Akomo. Now eight of their first 10 attempts were all inside the lane while on Ateneo’s first 10 possessions, they took three shots inside, three from the outside, and turned the ball over twice.

Even when UST got into foul trouble and Akomo was largely contained, they had players stepping up and doing some damage. Furthermore, they nearly matched the inside points 38-36.

The Blue Eagles would lose and regain the momentum in a game of runs. Just when we thought we put UST away with an early third quarter blitz, they came roaring back. Whether they were aided by the bad calls or not, what was once a 22 point-lead was razed to five after three periods of play.

A lead like that is not safe at all.

Matt Nieto has been solid.
All the off-season work seems to be paying off for Matt Nieto. Leadership and shooting-wise (clutch too).

Look at his Season 79 figures vis-a-vis his Season 80 totals so far:
S79 16.6 minutes, 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists versus 1.6 turnovers.
S80 22.3 minutes, 10.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals versus 2.0 turnovers.

I’d like to see him hike up his assist totals though. Among starting point guards, his is the lowest.

JJ Alejandro (National University) 5.6
Philip Manalang (University of the East) 4.3
Axel Iñigo (Far Eastern University) 4.0
Aljun Melecio (De La Salle University) 3.3
Jun Manzo (University of the Philippines) 3.0
Marvin Lee (University of Santo Tomas) 2.8
Rob Manalang (Adamson University) 2.5
Matt Nieto (Ateneo de Manila University) 1.8

You can say that he is consistent in his assist totals. And I don’t know how the coaching staff wants him positioned but from the looks of things, he’s stationary and whipping the ball around.

Team-wise, Ateneo is second in assist totals so that points to their system where the ball moves around where everyone can score and pass. They come off Thirdy Ravena drives, Anton Asistio hitting the open man when someone runs out to him, or with Ikeh making good reads down the blocks on at the elbow.

Speaking of Ikeh, he has six assists in five matches. Not bad when you think he had 10 for the entire Season 79.

Not a big deal for Matt but still… it would be nice to see him raise his assist totals to make him a more well-rounded point guard.

Chib Ikeh has been superb.
This is sort of the Chibueze Ikeh that we saw in his rookie year. Except he is playing better. 7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block versus 6 turnovers. Like I said in my team preview, if Ateneo wants to win it all this season, the Big Fella will have to step up. And he has. Methinks we’ll see better games from him as his confidence has greatly soared.

You have to give it to Chib. Last year, the consensus was... get him off the court. Now it's get him back on the court! We need him. Good for you, Big Fella. Good for you! 

Team play has to be stressed again.
I like the fact that at any given time, anyone can score or assist a teammate. Let’s look at how many Blue Eagles picked up a least one assist in a game against their respective foes:
10 players chalked up assists vs. UST’s 5
10 players chalked up assists vs UE’s 11
10 players chalked up assists vs. FEU’s 11
6 players chalked up assists vs. UP’s 5
9 players chalked up assists vs. Adamson’s 6

Right now, the top three teams in assists (in order): FEU, NU, and UE.

What does not show in the UST assist stats is the assists by three guys named Borbe, Jaramillo, and Baria.

Moving on, you know NU too moves the ball around, you can be sure that NU will try to get as many players into the mix as well.

Looking at the UST side, here are some things I’d like to reiterate:
It looks like they have silently formed a very good team. Mathematically, they could still chase a Final Four slot but that is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, they will get even better. They need to find a replacement for Jeepy Faundo who in my opinion is pro ready (I hope they give this kid a chance) and the three other guys they will lose to that age rule of the UAAP.

Jordan Sta. Ana is making a case for this season’s breakout star. His final stat line was 21 points (on 67% shooting), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal versus 2 turnovers.

And again, UST may be 0-5 and you have to give their coaching staff led by Boy Sablan some credit. They have not made it easy for other teams to pick up a win. That was a gusty starting unit he threw out there. I think people should be realistic about this team. I honestly did not think they would win a game not because they were weak but because they are young and filled with players who didn’t see a lot of playing time. Imagine if Renzo Subido was in uniform and that Embons Bonleon did not burn bridges. They’d be up in the standings in my opinion.

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